The Los Angeles Lakers might not be Kawhi Leonard’s first, or even second choice once he becomes a free agent in the coming 2019 offseason. Despite rampant rumors hinting that Leonard prefers to play in Los Angeles if given the choice, multiple insiders have more recently suggested that the Lakers might not be his top priority after all, and as ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said on the Mason and Ireland podcast earlier this week, there are two other teams the 27-year-old Toronto Raptors forward would rather play for.
A report from NESN cited Shelburne, who said on Friday that the Los Angeles Clippers are now Leonard’s most preferred destination when he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2019. Coming in second were the Raptors, who traded for Leonard two months ago in a deal that sent DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs, followed by the Lakers as the two-time Defensive Player of the Year’s third choice in free agency.
With her comments about Kawhi Leonard’s supposed list of preferred destinations as a free agent next summer, Shelburne became the latest person to cast doubt on the chances of Leonard joining the Lakers as many had once expected. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, ESPN analyst Jalen Rose said that he also expects Leonard to sign with the Clippers for the 2019-20 NBA season if he decides to leave Toronto. Prior to that, Danny Green, the former Spurs forward who was traded along with Leonard in July, suggested on his podcast that Kawhi might find it difficult to leave the Raptors.
Reacting to what Shelburne said about the Los Angeles Lakers being Kawhi Leonard’s third choice when he hits free agency next summer, NESN wrote that Leonard joining the Lakers could force him to defer to LeBron James while playing for the “league’s marquee franchise” and dealing with the pressure and drama of playing alongside a four-time NBA MVP. This was similar to Rose’s remarks earlier in the week about Kawhi not wanting to “play in LeBron’s shadow” as the second-best player on the Lakers.
NESN also brought up another reason why the Clippers could be a better fit for Leonard’s personality, explaining that the stakes won’t be so high due to the Clippers’ long history of poor performance and bad luck.
“With the Clippers, Leonard would the be the face of a franchise that has been plagued with bad luck and ever worse teams throughout its history, and he could go about his business without the James spotlight which will be focused on the Lakers.”
Although these reports only seemed to regain momentum throughout the week, the rumors of Kawhi Leonard passing up a chance to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers first swirled in July, and also suggested that he could favor the Clippers instead. According to Clipperholics, famed NBA insider Shams Charania said on a July episode of The Herd with Colin Cowherd that he expects Leonard to be “more open to joining the Clippers” due to LeBron James’ decision to sign with the Lakers.