With the Toronto Raptors one game away from winning the 2019 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, much of the attention remains on Kawhi Leonard’s free agency.
When Leonard originally requested a trade from the San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers were reportedly his preferred destination.
However, general manager Masai Ujiri took a significant risk and traded DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl for a potential one-year rental prior to the 2018-19 NBA season.
Before the Game 4 win over the Warriors, Leonard addressed his impending free agency with the Raptors and what he is focused on heading into June 30, via ESPN:
“Not now. Obviously, you know what you want, but I’m not thinking like just because of this and this, I’m gonna re-sign. I’m not really thinking about re-signing or what team I’m gonna go to in free agency — none of that. I’m just focused on what’s in front of me right now. Once it’s over, then I’ll revisit everything.”
While Leonard is focused on winning his second championship, the latest report does have him re-signing on a short-term deal, according to David Thorpe of TrueHoop:
“Of course, he’s about to be a free agent. And because of that, as the media you might expect to hear sunny things about Kawhi’s return from Raptors sources eager to tamp down the impression Kawhi is bound for the Clippers or another team. But even before the Finals began, we at TrueHoop heard from plugged-in sources associated with players and the league — but not the team — that Kawhi would return to Toronto, at least on a short-term deal.”
As the Raptors advanced to the 2019 NBA Finals, Leonard’s chances of re-signing with them have seemingly increased. While most thought the Warriors would three-peat, Leonard is on the brink of ending another dynasty (Miami Heat).
Other than Marc Gasol (player option) and Danny Green, all of the team’s core players will still be under contract for the 2019-20 season. As a result, Leonard re-signing on a short-term deal is starting to make more sense now.
However, through all of the conflicting reports about Leonard’s future, the one constant has been Los Angeles. While it appears to be a longshot now, LeBron James reportedly has had contact with him about teaming up.