Although Kawhi Leonard made it clear that he sought a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, the San Antonio Spurs were hardly moved by the request. They particularly were in no rush to trade Leonard to a Western Conference rival.
Especially ahead of or during the 2018 NBA Draft and free agency, when the Lakers were attempting to orchestrate the additions of Paul George, LeBron James and Leonard. They wound up with one of the big three, but the best player of the group in James.
As George opted to re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers reportedly scaled back their pursuit of a Leonard trade. Presumably in some part due to the Spurs’ exorbitant asking price.
Now the Toronto Raptors and Spurs are said to be close to a trade centered on Leonard and DeMar DeRozan.
However, on top of previously making it known he would sign with the Lakers as a 2019 free agent if not traded there, Leonard reportedly doesn’t have any interest in playing in Toronto.
Nonetheless, Raptors president Masai Ujiri is committed to the task at hand of convincing Leonard to re-sign, should the trade be completed, per ESPN’s Chris Haynes and Adrian Wojnarowski:
Ujiri will make the deal with a determination that he can sell Leonard on re-signing with the Raptors next summer in free agency, sources said.
Up to this point Leonard’s situation has unfolded eerily similar to that of George and the Indiana Pacers last summer. He too made it public knowledge of a desire to be sent to the Lakers. George also said he would sign with his hometown team if the trade request wasn’t met.
Once considered a lock to join the Lakers, a year in Oklahoma City seemingly did wonders for George. Ujiri might face more of an uphill battle considering Leonard appears more shut off to the notion of playing for Toronto than George was with Oklahoma City.
Ujiri will have the advantage of being able to offer Leonard a five-year, $190 million contract come free agency. Other teams with salary cap space for a max contract could present him with a four-year, $141 million offer.
Meanwhile, the Spurs can officially present Leonard with a five-year, $219 million supermax contract extension. Though, that no longer figures to be a likely development.
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