Heading into the 2018-19 NBA season, the Toronto Raptors traded DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard following his trade request.
As Leonard did not list the Raptors as a potential trade destination, he was widely viewed as a one-year rental.
Eight months later, Leonard and the Raptors dethroned the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals. As a result, there are questions about how this ultimately impacts Leonard’s free agency decision heading into June 30.
Unfortunately for the Raptors, they ‘still have work to do’ to re-sign Leonard, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN as transcribed by Paul Kasabian of Bleacher Report:
“He came to Toronto, with the idea from San Antonio, this was a very fine one year way station and I’m sure exceeded his expectations how they managed him physically to be a Finals MVP again, to win a championship. But there was always the risk of him going back west. The L.A. Clippers are at the very top of that list, and I think the Raptors still have work to do between now and June 30 and the start of free agency to keep Kawhi Leonard in Toronto.”
As the Los Angeles Clippers are viewed as Leonard’s preferred destination, they are preparing for him to re-sign with the Raptors, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic:
“The team most associated with Leonard as far as a landing spot in free agency are the Clippers. Their confidence in Leonard picking them in a few weeks has been reportedly high for much of the year. But, league sources said over the last few days, the Clippers are seeing what we’re seeing — Leonard leading the team for which he currently plays to the brink of its first title. The Clippers, those sources said, feel confident Leonard will answer the phone when they call on June 30, but beyond that there is no way to know what impact Leonard’s Finals run will have. Those sources said the Clippers spend most of their time in meetings preparing for scenarios in which he doesn’t come to L.A.”
With Leonard having a tight circle, the reality is ‘no one knows’ what he will do on June 30. Through all of the conflicting reports, the one constant has been the 27-year-old’s desire to play for the Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers.
Since the narrative has changed from the Lakers to the Clippers, it will be interesting to see what happens. With or without the Anthony Davis trade, there is an opportunity to win with LeBron James and the Lakers as the Western Conference race appears to be wide open for the first time after Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson’s injuries.