After missing most of the 2017-18 NBA season, Kawhi Leonard reminded the world that he is as good as any player in the league today.
Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA championship while winning his second NBA Finals MVP and now he’s set to reap the benefits of his outstanding accomplishments.
The biggest question is where will Leonard be playing for the 2019-20 season. It is believed that he prefers to be in Southern California and the Los Angeles Clippers are the target. The Los Angeles Lakers are also expected to pursue him assuming they are able to clear out salary cap space for another max spot, but are believed to be a distant third.
The Raptors, on the other hand, are believed to be behind the Clippers in keeping Leonard but according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, have closed the gap on the favorites:
“The Raptors closed the gap, but I still think that they got a ways to go here to compete with the Clippers. They’re running out of time. Free agency is less than two weeks away.”
It would make sense that Leonard is strongly considering remaining in Toronto. It’s always difficult to leave a team after winning a championship and Leonard would have the support of the entire country of Canada should he choose to remain with the Raptors.
But Leonard did grow up in Southern California, playing high school ball in Riverside before attending San Diego State. The Lakers’ attempts to create a superteam could hurt their chances of landing Leonard, but as Wojnarowski noted, that’s not his style and it will come down to the Raptors and Clippers:
“The reality is Kawhi Leonard’s focused on Los Angeles, but it’s the Clippers. Not the Lakers. Number one, they don’t have the money to sign him. And two, the idea of him being a third wheel on a team trying to create a superteam — that has not been Kawhi’s M.O. The Clippers are poised to be able to lure him from Toronto. This will be a Raptors-Clippers fight down to the end. He may take meetings with more teams. It’s not even certain he’d even take a meeting with the Lakers right now.”
This has been the belief for some time now and nothing has changed that thought process. The Lakers still believe they have a shot and will pursue him assuming they get the cap space, but by all accounts, it is a two-team race.
Leonard will have a tough decision to make in the end and while the Lakers continue to make noise, they’re a longshot at best to land the reigning Finals MVP.