Article courtesy OddsShark (@OddsShark)
Heading into the 2019 NBA playoffs, it was almost a foregone conclusion that impending free agent Kawhi Leonard was going to sign with a Western Conference team, particularly one of the two near his hometown of Riverside, Calif.
While the Los Angeles Lakers and L.A. Clippers are still in the mix for the reigning NBA Finals MVP, the Toronto Raptors are currently the favorites to re-sign Leonard around following their first-ever championship at -225 (bet $225 to win $100) at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The Clippers are listed as the +175 second choice (bet $100 to win $175) on those NBA odds to sign Leonard, and they were previously the favorites before he picked up his second ring. Of course the first came in 2014 when he was also named NBA Finals MVP in leading the San Antonio Spurs to their fifth and latest championship way before he was dealt to Toronto last offseason.
Leonard won NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2015 and 2016 with the Spurs, and he has been named an All-Star three times in his eight-year career.
The Lakers are the favorites to win the NBA title in 2020 after trading for Anthony Davis to team up with LeBron James, but the Clippers could potentially rival them if they were able to sign Leonard as a free agent.
Unlike the Lakers, who are at +800 on the Kawhi Leonard odds, the Clippers have two max contract slots available and a much deeper roster, which could make them an attractive destination. The Lakers obviously have a tradition of winning though, and that has helped them in pursuit of stars in the past.
Two more teams that need to be mentioned who will have plenty of salary cap space are the New York Knicks (+1400) and Brooklyn Nets (+1600). Both teams are looking to add a superstar that can sell tickets and take them deep into the playoffs in what is now a much weaker Eastern Conference with James in Los Angeles.
The Raptors took advantage of the absence of James last season, and the Knicks and Nets could do the same thing in the near future if they play their cards right.
Both are already rumored to be interested in signing other marquee free agents (namely Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving), and pairing either with Leonard could instantly make them one of the favorites not only in the East but in the league as well.