When the San Antonio Spurs traded Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors, he was widely considered a one-year rental for the 2018-19 NBA season.
Similar to the Oklahoma City Thunder trading for Paul George and eventually re-signing him, the Raptors took a significant risk by trading DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl. However, it appears it could work out for the Raptors.
In Leonard’s first season in Toronto, he led them to the 2019 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors and won Game 1, 118-109.
With free agency in less than a month, Leonard reportedly is expected to re-sign 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.”
While there will be conflicting reports, LeBron James reportedly ‘has had’ contact with Leonard, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
“From what I understand, he has already begun the recruiting process. I’ve heard he has had contact with Kawhi Leonard. I’ve heard he’s had contact with Jimmy Butler.”
Throughout the 2019 NBA playoffs, much of the attention has been on Leonard’s free agency. As Leonard’s uncle shared his nephew’s focus was on the present, many have started to wonder why the 27-year-old would leave.
As currently constructed, the Raptors are a championship contender and for the first time in five seasons, there could be a major shift in the league — especially if Kevin Durant does not re-sign with the Warriors.
When Leonard initially asked for a trade request, the Los Angeles Lakers were considered his preferred destination. However, as the season progressed, the narrative changed with the Los Angeles Clippers emerging as the favorite.
As it currently stands, Leonard wanting to play in his hometown has been the one constant. However, the 27-year-old’s success in just his first season appears to be a significant factor in his impending free agency decision.
While Marc Gasol has a player option and Danny Green will be a free agent, the team’s core players of OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam, and Fred VanVleet are all under contract.