The Kawhi Leonard saga in San Antonio finally ended when the Spurs dealt him to the Toronto Raptors in a four-player deal.
Toronto was not one of the teams originally talked about as a potential landing spot, but as the Los Angeles Lakers were not able to agree to a deal with the Spurs, new suitors eventually emerged.
Of course, Los Angeles was Leonard’s preferred landing spot and with his contract expiring next summer, the Raptors are taking a risk in trading for him. But as Paul George showed this offseason, a player with eyes for one place can be convinced to stay in his new home after a year.
That is what the Raptors hope to do with Leonard and as Adrian Wojnarowski spoke about on ESPN, Leonard is reportedly warming to the idea of playing in Toronto, but his long-term plans remain the same:
“The one thing I was told today, he’s starting to warm to the idea that he’s going to a contender. He’s got a team that can be as good as anybody in the Eastern Conference, and now it’s on Toronto to try to recruit him, keep him. But, in his mind right now, he’s headed to L.A. next year.”
The Lakers undoubtedly hope that remains the case and they will be sure to have the necessary salary cap space ready for when Leonard is a free agent next summer. Additionally, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Jimmy Butler may all be available in 2019 free agency.
Leonard, when healthy, is arguably the best two-way player in the NBA. He played in just nine games last year because of a lingering quad issue, though he had been cleared by Spurs doctors, leading some to question exactly what was wrong.
Leonard was outstanding in 2017, finishing third in MVP voting and being named to All-NBA and All-Defensive First Team, while averaging 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds. 3.5 assists, and 1.8 steals.
If he can return to that level of play he will be one of the most sought after free agents next summer, and the Lakers will do everything possible to convince him to come to L.A.
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