Posted on June 23, 2019, by Travis Pulver
With free agency set to begin soon for the NBA, teams will be getting their pitches ready for the guys they want to sign. One guy expected to hear a few pitches when the time comes is Toronto Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard—assuming he declines his option and becomes a free agent, of course.
According to several media reports, he is going to decline his player option valued at $21.3 million and enter free agency.
The news does not come as much of a surprise. When the Raptors acquired Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs prior to last season, they knew he likely would. He wanted to go to Los Angeles, but the Spurs didn’t have to send him anywhere.
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Despite his public request for a trade to Los Angeles, the Raptors acquired him anyway knowing he could leave. However, after winning the championship last season they will likely consider it a good trade if he does leave. But they likely hope he will do like Paul George, who also wanted to head out west, and stay put.
After the season he had in Toronto and how the organization treated him, the Raptors are now favored to retain his services (with the help of a max deal—five years, $190 million). Their odds are -225 which gives them a 69.23 percent chance to sign him.
It wasn’t too long ago that the Clippers were favored to acquire him. Somehow, after Leonard made the shot that finished off the 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Clippers had -150 odds (Toronto’s were +140).
But beating the Milwaukee Bucks in four straight games and taking down the Golden State Warriors have forced the odds to move in favor of the Raptors.
So—what is he going to do?
According to some media reports he is going to take a meeting with the Knicks (+1400), 76ers, Nets (+1600), Lakers (+800), and Clippers. However, there is no reason to think he is going to sign with the 76ers. It would also be surprising to see him go to the Knicks or Nets. While they can offer him a max contract (but less than what Toronto can offer), they don’t really have anything to entice him with.
Yes, the Nets were a playoff team last year, but there is a good chance they are going to lose their best player in free agency. But with as much as Leonard dislikes the media spotlight, heading to New York makes no sense.
Should he go with the Lakers, he will go from being the primary option for a great team to the third option (after LeBron James and Anthon Davis) for one that was terrible last season. Much like with the Knicks, the media scrutiny would be intense.
So, that leaves the Clippers (+150) or staying in Toronto (-175).
He is said to be giving staying in Toronto some serious consideration, but a few days ago he was seen buying moving boxes at a Home Depot. Now, they could be for him to pack and move to Los Angeles. However, they could also be used to help him move into a new house in Toronto.
We just don’t know. But hopefully, once the window where teams can start talking with players opens on June 30th, Kawhi Leonard will not keep us waiting too long for a decision.