The Toronto Raptors earned plenty of criticisms with their decision to trade their most loyal player, DeMar DeRozan, to acquire Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs. When healthy, Leonard is undeniably a better player than DeRozan, and his acquisition makes the Raptors one of the top favorite teams to fully dominate the Eastern Conference next season. Unfortunately, the All-Star forward could only be a one-year rental.
Before he was traded to the Raptors, Kawhi Leonard already informed all the interested teams that he plans to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. Still, the Raptors took the risk, believing that they can convince Leonard to stay like the Oklahoma City Thunder did to Paul George.
Recently, Peter Yannopoulos of RDS revealed that Leonard bought a new home in Toronto. Most professional athletes who are unsure about their long-term future with their current teams usually rent a place to stay rather than buying their own. Some people perceived Leonard’s recent action as a hint that he intends to stay with the Raptors beyond the 2018-19 NBA season.
Of course, there is also a possibility that buying a home in Toronto isn’t connected with his free agency plans next summer. Leonard has lots of money in the bank, and he could simply sell the house when the 2018-19 NBA season is over. However, multiple signs are already pointing out that the Raptors may have a real chance of re-signing Leonard in the 2019 NBA free agency.
Last month, Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News(via TSN Radio) revealed that Kawhi Leonard may consider staying long-term in Toronto instead of playing for his hometown team.
“Based off of me talking to people within his circle, they’re going to go into this thing with an open mind and give this thing every last opportunity to work. And at the end of the day, if that’s the case, then it would be great if he stays. Obviously, I think part of his mind, yes, let’s keep real: I think he still feels like L.A. might be the destination. At the same time, he plans to go into this thing with an open mind, giving it every single shot in the world to make it work.”
The Raptors have plenty of time to show Leonard why he should stay with the team. The outcome of the 2018-19 NBA season is expected to play a major role in Leonard’s decision next summer. Successfully reaching the NBA Finals will increase the Raptors’ chance of re-signing Leonard in the 2019 NBA free agency.