Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant

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Schmeelk: Kevin Durant And Kawhi Leonard Lead Knicks Free Agent Power Rankings

John Schmeelk
March 15, 2019 - 4:28 pm

The Knicks remaining games on the schedule do not hold much importance, but what happens on July 1st certainly does. The Knicks head into free agency with the ability to clear enough money to sign two max free agents, including a player with the longer service time of Kevin Durant. I’ll update this as we get closer to July, but here are my Knicks free agent power rankings broken down into tiers.

The Automatics

There are only two players in this class that the Knicks shouldn’t have any serious reservations about signing when they hit free agency in the summer.

1. Kevin Durant - One of the best, if not the best, scorers in the NBA, Durant is the golden prize of free agency this offseason. A threat to achieve the coveted 50/40/90 every season, he is impossible to stop. He might stop the ball from time to time, but his ridiculous efficiency makes it a minor nuisance. Some rightfully wonder if he can handle the spotlight that comes with playing in New York, but his talent is so undeniable that it’s something that shouldn’t stand in the team’s way. It seems to be an open secret that Durant is coming to New York this summer, but I will believe it when I see it. Chance he comes to the Knicks: 45 percent

2. Kawhi Leonard - Perhaps the best two-way player in the NBA, Leonard can carry a team on both ends of the floor. He’s only 27-years-old, and averages 27 points per game on nearly 50 percent shooting from the field, and 36 percent from behind the arc. He is a lockdown defender. You can even argue that he is a better get than Durant because of his age. His quad issue and other problems with San Antonio last season when he couldn’t (or wouldn’t?) get on the floor are small red flags, but his talent is so immense that it is not a roadblock. A noted introvert, no one seems to know where he might end up, but most believe he heads back to the West Coast where he grew up and plays for the Clippers. Chance he comes to the Knicks: 10 percent

MORE: Schmeelk: How Do The Knicks Get The Most Out Of Mitchell Robinson?

Yes! But…

The Knicks should sign these guys but there are legitimate causes for concern.

3. Kyrie Irving ­­- Purely as a basketball player, signing Irving is a no-brainer. He averages over 23 points per game, more than 7 assists, and shoots nearly 50 percent from the field and 41 percent from behind the arc. He might be the most unstoppable one-on-one player in the game. His constant knee issues are a legitimate worry, as they’ve ended his season prematurely in seasons past. He also says some zany things, including calling out his teammates on a couple of different occasions this season. His is a tri-state area native, but will he leave the Celtics if they do well in the postseason? Probably not. If they lose quickly? Now there’s a chance. Chance he comes to the Knicks: 30 percent

Are They Good Enough?

These are really good players but there are fair questions if you can win at a championship level if they are the best players on your team.

4. Klay Thompson - One of the best shooters in the world, but he has never had to carry a team on his own. He is an excellent defender. Can he be the alpha on a good team or will he just put your team in 42 win purgatory? He’s 29-years-old with a lot of good years left. Especially if Durant chooses to leave Golden State, I can’t imagine he follows him out the door. Chance he comes to the Knicks: 10 percent

5. Kemba Walker - A dynamic scoring point guard that struggles with efficiency a bit (55 percent True Shooting) and stands at only 6’1 and 184 pounds. He is extremely consistent and will turn 29 in May. There are fair questions if his body will allow him to maintain this high level of play for years to come. If Irving stays in Boston, he’s a real potential target for the Knicks. Chance he comes to the Knicks: 35 percent

6. Jimmy Butler - He’ll turn thirty this year, and while he is an excellent two-way player he hasn’t shown he can be the go-to player on a great team. He is a helper, but the Knicks have no one for him to help. If the Sixers let him walk this is a dangerous option for the Knicks. Chance he comes to the Knicks: 20 percent

The Bad Fits

7 and 8. DeMarcus Cousins and Nikola Vucevic - These two big men are both fine players, but with Mitchell Robinson on the roster and with the NBA being such a perimeter-oriented league, it doesn’t make much sense to pursue these players.

Not Worth The Money

These players are going to make max money and aren’t good enough to justify it for a team that doesn’t already have an established star on their roster.

9. Tobias Harris - He is the perfect third banana on a good team, like he is in Philly. I would be shocked if they let him walk. Chance he comes to the Knicks: 7 percent

10. Khris Middleton - He’ll be worth the max contract the Bucks might offer him, but for a team like the Knicks they won’t get the bang for the buck. Chance he comes to the Knicks: 15 percent

MORE: Schmeelk: Allonzo Trier’s Amazing Rookie Season

11. Al Horford - Horford is an excellent complimentary big man, but he is turning 33 this year and will not fit on the Knicks timeline. He also has a player option and the Knicks also have Mitchell Robinson. Chance he comes to the Knicks: 2 percent

12. D’Angelo Russell - The Nets control his rights, and coming off a breakout season I would be shocked if they let him walk into Madison Square Garden wearing orange and blue. Chance he comes to the Knicks: 5 percent

You can follow John on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants and on the world of sports. You can also subscribe to his Knicks podcast, The Bank Shot, on iTunes. The most recent episode is with Steve Popper, who covers the Knicks for Newsday.