Toronto Raptors small forward Kawhi Leonard is expected to be one of the most coveted superstars in the 2019 NBA free agency. Since being traded to the Raptors, Leonard has been frequently linked to NBA teams who could open up enough salary cap space for a max contract next summer. These include the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets, and the New York Knicks.
The 2019 NBA free agency is still more than three months away, but Kawhi Leonard has already started seeking advice from players who have faced similar situations before. On Twitter, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports revealed that Leonard had a conversation with Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Paul George about his impending free agency.
“Paul George said he’s spoken to Kawhi about his experience in a similar situation last year (coming to a new team and facing free agency before ultimately deciding to stay in OKC). What advice did he have? ‘That’s between us.'”
It’s easy to understand why Kawhi Leonard decided to reach out to Paul George. The Thunder superstar is very familiar with the path Leonard is currently taking as he has been in the same situation before. In the 2017 NBA offseason, when George demanded a trade from the Indiana Pacers, he was also rumored to be interested in joining the Lakers.
However, Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka passed on trading for Paul George with the belief that they could get him in free agency without sacrificing precious trade assets. The Pacers ended up sending George to the Thunder in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. During those times, most people believed that George was only a one-year rental for the Thunder.
Paul George's 28 PTS, 6 REB & 5 AST leads the @okcthunder to 116-109 W in Toronto! #ThunderUp— NBA (@NBA) March 23, 2019
Dennis Schroder: 26 PTS, 6 REB, 7 AST
Jerami Grant: 19 PTS (5 3PM)
Russell Westbrook: 18 PTS, 12 REB, 13 AST pic.twitter.com/mOQpbLwkMB
Luckily for the Thunder, one season of playing alongside Russell Westbrook was enough to convince Paul George to stay long-term in Oklahoma City. George may have decided to keep his recent conversation with Leonard a secret, but it will definitely be good news for the Raptors if he advised him to do the same thing he did last summer. Some people think that George might be recruiting Leonard to Oklahoma City, but the Thunder don’t have the capability to sign “The Claw” next summer.
Since acquiring him in a blockbuster deal with the San Antonio Spurs, Raptors President Masai Ujiri has been very optimistic about Kawhi Leonard’s future in Toronto. Ujiri expressed strong confidence that Leonard will re-sign with them when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next July.