Will Leonard stay in Toronto?
The 2019 NBA Free Agency period gets started in a little over a week and one of the big names on the market is Kawhi Leonard. Where will the NBA Finals MVP end up?
Leonard opted out of his contract for the 2019-20 season, making him an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He is free to sign with anyone. According to the latest oddsmakers, the Toronto Raptors are the favorite to keep Leonard, as they have -225 odds to keep Kawhi. The Los Angeles Clippers have the next shortest odds at +175 while the Los Angeles Lakers come in at +800, the New York Knicks are at +1400 and the Brooklyn Nets are at +1600.
Coming into the season, not many people would have pegged the Raptors as the favorite to get Leonard in the future, but that perception has changed over the course of the year. Leonard had a phenomenal season where he was able to get rest for the playoffs and then took over in the postseason. He looked to genuinely enjoy his time in Toronto and perhaps developed a trust for their staff that he seemed to lose with the Spurs over the 2017-18 season.
Most importantly for Toronto, the Raptors can offer him the most money. Toronto can offer Leonard a five-year, $189.7 million max contract. If Leonard is to go elsewhere, the most he can get is four years and $140.6 million.
Leonard also could opt for a similar path that other big names like LeBron James and Kevin Durant have done, and that is sign a short-term deal in order to get a max contract a little later in his career to truly maximize his earning potential.
Of the non-Toronto teams, the Clippers have the most potential to sign Leonard as they have put themselves in position to bring in multiple big names. Leonard is likely to want to play somewhere where he can continue to compete for titles. The Clippers have a chance to contend right away if they can sign Leonard and another top free agent to go along with their young talent they currently have.
The Lakers seem like a tough call given their financial constraints already, but Los Angeles may be going all-in on a Big 3 and just seeing what they can find around them. However, Leonard could have to play third fiddle to LeBron and Davis in that scenario when he is clearly a star.
I personally like the Toronto wager. Leonard isn’t someone that needs a big city to be happy. He doesn’t strike me as someone that wants a lot of spotlight or media attention around him, so he won’t have the same passion for L.A. that other stars may. Leonard was comfortable and happy with the Raptors, and they won. They showed him a lot of respect and I think that was something that was important to him after the San Antonio debacle. Leonard can make the most with Toronto and the Raptors can continue to contend for titles in the East as they are built.
NBA PROPS PREDICTION: Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors -225