NBA Rumors: Raptors GM Explains Why He’s Not Concerned About Kawhi Leonard’s Impending Free Agency

Can the Raptors convince Kawhi Leonard to stay long-term in Toronto?

Raptors GM on Leonard's free agency
Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Can the Raptors convince Kawhi Leonard to stay long-term in Toronto?

The Toronto Raptors took a big risk when they decided to trade DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a draft pick to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Most Raptors fans expressed a huge disappointment with the team’s move, saying that Toronto lost their most loyal player for a possible one-year rental.

Before the Raptors and the Spurs engaged in a trade deal, Kawhi Leonard had informed all the interested NBA teams about his plan to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. Despite knowing Leonard’s offseason plan, the Raptors still decided to push through with the deal. According to ESPN, Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri admitted that it’s hard for them to trade DeMar DeRozan, but he strongly believes that they made the right decision.

Though Leonard’s future in Toronto remains uncertain, Ujiri doesn’t seem to be concerned at all with the superstar’s commitment to the franchise.

“Basketball person. Just loves the game,” Ujiri said. “Wants to play the game and very competitive. You can tell he is a very competitive kid. It’s about basketball. Once you just start to talk about basketball his eyes change.”

Since the Raptors made the controversial trade, General Manager Masai Ujiri has already shown strong confidence that they can convince Kawhi Leonard to re-sign in the 2019 NBA free agency. Like what the Oklahoma City Thunder did to Paul George, the Raptors will use the upcoming 2018-19 NBA season to show Leonard why he should stay long-term in Toronto.

Days before the training camp starts, Kawhi Leonard is yet to address the media in Toronto. However, Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri said that the 27-year-old small forward is healthy and happy.

“He is determined and seems in the right frame of mind,” Ujiri said. “You will be hearing from him shortly. I think there is a fire inside of him, and we are all excited about that.”

The acquisition of Kawhi Leonard has undeniably made the Raptors a better team than they were last season. In the ESPN Summer Forecast, panelists gave the Raptors’ the second best chance of representing the LeBron James-less Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals 2019. The outcome of the 2018-19 NBA season is expected to play a major role in Leonard’s decision in the 2019 NBA free agency. In an appearance on Mason and Ireland, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN gave the Raptors a better chance of signing Leonard than the Lakers next summer.