NBA Free Agency has been full of surprises and there may be more. Currently, there is one more player who could majorly surprise us when he signs with a team. He is an All-Star, two-time NBA Finals Champion, and NBA Finals MVP. This player I am referring to is Kawhi Leonard. There are reports that he is signing with one of only three possible teams. They are the Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers, and Los Angeles Lakers.
We all know Leonard is most likely going to sign with one of the three teams above according to the Washington Post. But what if he didn’t?
In this piece, we are going to look at the teams with their current rosters — including recent free-agent signings. These teams all have the cap space to sign Leonard as well. Here is what it could have looked like if Leonard signed with one of these four teams.
Four Unlikely Kawhi Leonard Free Agency Scenarios
The Philadelphia 76ers lost their starting small forward Jimmy Butler in NBA Free Agency to the Miami Heat. However, it was in a sign and trade. In return, the 76ers got Josh Richardson who is a shooting guard. He is athletic, a solid defender can dribble drive, and can make a basket from anywhere on the court. Richardson replaces J.J. Redick who left to the New Orleans Pelicans. Al Horford signed with the Sixers which didn’t make sense. The Sixers lost backup point guard T.J. McConnell but signed Raul Neto according to nba.com. Kawhi signing with them makes sense as they need a small forward. The Sixers were one series away from the Eastern Conference Finals. Kawhi would be the player to help them make the NBA Finals.
This would be ironic as Leonard sent the Sixers home last postseason. However, this season they would have a different team. In brief, the 76ers will have a versatile starting five along with a new bench. Their starting line up could have been; point guard Ben Simmons, shooting guard Richardson, small forward Leonard, power forward Tobias Harris, and center Joel Embiid. Then their bench could be Carsen Edwards at point guard, Zhaire Smith at shooting guard, James Ennis at small forward, Mike Scott at power forward, and Horford at center. Horford can even be the sixth man for the Sixers. They signed Horford which initially didn’t make sense because they already have a center and power forward in Embiid and Harris.
New York Knicks
Critics are saying the New York Knicks didn’t do well in free agency by not signing Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and keeping DeAndre Jordan. Instead, they signed multiple power forwards and centers. First, they signed Julius Randle, then Taj Gibson, and Bobby Portis. All three play power forward or center. However, let us not forget they Knicks already have a solid starting five core and one or two big men in Mitchell Robinson and Kevin Knox. Knox can play small or power forward. They even signed Wayne Ellington and they drafted R.J. Barrett from Duke.
I think the Knicks will do better than the Nets this season and they signed the right players. If you think about it, Irving, Durant, and Jordan are injury-prone. New York decided to sign healthy free agents who are physical in the key and they signed some three-point shooters in Ellington and Reggie Bullock according to nba.com. If the league is going back to the post-game, then the Knicks made the right signings.
Imagine if Leonard decided to sign with the Knicks. New York actually had a chance to sign Leonard, but they canceled their meeting according to Bleacher Report. If they were able to, here is what their lineup could look like. At point guard Dennis Smith Jr, shooting guard Allonzo Trier, small forward Leonard, power forward Randle or Knox, and Robinson at center. Their bench would be Elfrid Payton at point guard, Ellington or Barrett at shooting guard, Knox at small forward, Gibson at power forward and Portis at center. Nonetheless, they would have a stacked and versatile roster. If this happened, the Knicks would have won free agency. Across town, the Nets signed multiple All-Stars.
The Dallas Mavericks would not only make the playoffs but be legitimate NBA Finals contenders if Leonard signed with them in NBA Free Agency. I understand they are in the Western Conference, therefore, playoffs would be difficult. However, I think with the roster they would have they, could be contenders for the NBA Championship. In my words, Dallas would be stacked. They would have a team who is defense-minded first, offense comes from their defense and can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court. The starting five could vary as the Mavericks mentioned before would be stacked and have depth.
The Mavs have Kristaps Porzingis from a trade from last season, they signed Seth Curry and drafted Luka Doncic last season. Also, they just signed Boban Marjanovic in NBA Free Agency. Their starting lineup could look like this: point guard Doncic, shooting guard Curry, small forward Leonard, power forward Porzingis, center Dwight Powell. Their bench would be Jalen Brunson point guard, Tim Hardaway shooting guard, Courtney Lee small forward, Dorian Finney-Smith power forward, and center Maxi Kleber. Then their sixth man could be Trey Burke and others. Dallas has depth and could change their lineups and rotations to the teams they are playing.
Okay, I will say we all know this won’t happen. That also doesn’t mean it can’t happen. If Leonard were to sign with the Phoenix Suns in NBA Free Agency? Everyone would be scratching their heads. Phoenix has made wise moves in free agency signing a point guard in Ricky Rubio and trading for power forward Dario Saric. They already have Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre Jr, and Deandre Ayton. It is uncertain if Oubre will stay with the team. They also traded Josh Jackson and De’Anthony Melton for Kyle Korver from the Memphis Grizzlies. Korver would be an excellent back-up to Booker. However, there are talks of the Suns buying out his contract according to nba.com. The Suns are moving up.
Signing Leonard would give more players a reason to want to play in Phoenix. Phoenix would have players who can not just shoot the ball from anywhere on the court, but play defense. Furthermore, they would have a point guard who can distribute the ball and make plays for their team. The Suns have been in a playoff drought and have been known to be one of the worst teams in basketball.
This is what their starting lineup could be if Kawhi went to Phoenix. Rubio at point guard, Booker at shooting guard, Leonard at small forward, Saric at power forward, Ayton at center. Then their bench would be Tyler Johnson at point guard, Jamal Crawford at shooting guard, Oubre Jr at small forward, Cameron Johnson at power forward, and Frank Kaminsky at center. They now have what you call a basketball team. If this were to happen, the Suns would shoot up the Western Conference standings.
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