Since the 2018 NBA offseason, Kawhi Leonard has been frequently linked with the Los Angeles Lakers. When he demanded a trade from the San Antonio Spurs, Leonard reportedly informed other interested teams that he will only sign with the Lakers when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019. Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka decided not to trade for Leonard with the belief that they could acquire him in the 2019 NBA free agency without giving up valuable trade assets.
However, lots of things have changed since Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors. In an appearance on Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective podcast, as transcribed by Bleacher Report, Brian Windhorst and Michael C. Wright of ESPN discussed several topics, including Leonard’s impending free agency. When asked if Leonard is interested in teaming up with LeBron James, Wright gave a negative response and added that the All-Star forward is more likely to join the other team situated in Los Angeles, the Clippers.
“I do not,” Wright said. “That’s just what I’ve been told. It’s what I’ve been told going back to last summer. I don’t see that as something that’s happening. I think he goes to the Clippers.”
Ten years ago today, college basketball coaches across the western seaboard took a collective gulp and wondered, "Why did we pass on this kid?" On the night Kawhi Leonard offered a glimpse of what he'd become: https://t.co/Mr9gLpbRKr
— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) March 7, 2019
It’s easy to understand why Kawhi Leonard is more interested in joining the Clippers than the Lakers. Despite not having a legitimate NBA superstar and losing their best player, Tobias Harris, before the February NBA trade deadline, the Clippers are a better team than the LeBron James-led Lakers. As of now, the Clippers are on a four-game winning streak and are sitting in the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference, while the Lakers lost eight of their last 10 games and are already out of the playoff race.
Like the Lakers, the Clippers are also expected to have enough salary cap space to give Kawhi Leonard a max contract in the 2019 NBA free agency. After signing Leonard, the Clippers will still have the capability to chase other incoming free agent superstars, including Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, and DeMarcus Cousins. Having Leonard and another superstar on their roster will undeniably make the Clippers a team to fear once again in the Western Conference.
Though the Clippers are currently emerging as the favorite landing spot for Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors are still expected to do everything they can to bring the All-Star forward back in free agency. Since acquiring him from the Spurs, Raptors President Masai Ujiri expressed strong confidence that they can convince Leonard to stay, just as the Oklahoma City Thunder did with Paul George last summer.