Ever since Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors last season, the question has hovered over him: “But where will he be playing next year?”
Leonard holds a player option for next season worth $21.3 million, per Basketball-Reference.com. But he proved that he’s an elite superstar this past season who’s worthy of a max contract.
Thus, Leonard probably will decline that player option and become a free agent.
The belief all along has been that he would return to his hometown of Los Angeles and join one of the two teams there.
When it comes to a fight between the Lakers and Clippers, the Lakers have historically won. They have the championships, the banners and the all-time greats, with Anthony Davis the latest superstar to don the purple and gold.
The history of the Lakers also seemed to give them the edge in the Kawhi Leonard Sweepstakes. But Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said Leonard isn’t even considering the Lakers.
“The reality is Kawhi Leonard’s focused on Los Angeles, but it’s the Clippers, not the Lakers,” Wojnarowski said on Tuesday’s “Get Up.”
“No. 1, they don’t have the money to sign him,” he said, “and 2, the idea of him being a third wheel on a team trying to create a superteam, that has not been Kawhi’s MO.
“The Clippers are poised to be able to lure him from Toronto. This will be a Raptors-Clippers fight down to the end. He may take meetings with more teams; it’s not even certain he’d even take a meeting with the Lakers right now.”
“Kawhi Leonard’s focus [is] on Los Angeles, but it’s the Clippers not the Lakers.”
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) June 18, 2019
Leonard has more of a financial incentive to sign with the Raptors or Clippers rather than the Lakers.
If Leonard wants to return home, the Clippers could offer the best contract of the two LA teams. They have enough cap space to sign a max free agent so they could offer Leonard as much as $140.6 million over four years.
Meanwhile, the Lakers, because of the timing of their trade for Davis, won’t have enough cap space for a max-level contract to offer Leonard, according to Wojnarowski.
If Pelicans and Lakers waited until July 30 to complete trade, Lakers could’ve had $32.5M in cap space — enough to pursue a max level free agent. By waiting 30 days, Lakers would be acting like a team over the cap and thus allowed to use 4th overall pick in draft as salary. https://t.co/BdKtxFtvai
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 16, 2019
There’s also the fact that the Lakers have little else on their roster outside of LeBron James and the incoming Davis. Once the trade is complete, they will have only five players under contract, according to Forbes: James, Davis, Kyle Kuzma and two of last year’s rookies, Mo Wagner and Isaac Bonga.
Crowd to Kawhi: ONE MORE YEAR
Kyle Lowry to crowd: FIVE MORE YEARS pic.twitter.com/rYImiYzVTv
— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) June 17, 2019
Leonard has until June 29 — which happens to be his 28th birthday — to decide whether to accept his player option with the Raptors.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.