Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant may be far from the only NBA superstar who is widely expected to leave for another team during the 2019 free agency period regardless of how well their team does in the ongoing NBA playoffs. If the latest rumors are accurate, Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard could also be trying his luck elsewhere, even if the Raptors, who finished the regular season as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, erase the disappointment of their recent early exits from postseason play.
As quoted by Sporting News, Brian Windhorst commented on Wednesday’s edition of ESPN’s The Jump that “a lot of people in the NBA” are expecting Leonard to leave Toronto and sign with another team once he becomes eligible for free agency this summer. Given that Leonard has been enjoying what appears to be a productive and trouble-free season with the Raptors, Windhorst stressed that the 27-year-old forward isn’t expected to leave because of anything the team’s management may have done.
“It’s just that Kawhi kind of wants to be on the West Coast,” Windhorst said. “The difficulty is that Kawhi doesn’t really articulate his feelings to people. … It’s difficult to read. It’s difficult for them to read, who have spent every day obsessing about it for months.”
While Kawhi Leonard has indeed been known for playing it coy with the media when it comes to his career plans, Sporting News noted that he has mostly been linked to a potential move to the Los Angeles Clippers in the summer of 2019. Leonard’s other hometown team, the Los Angeles Lakers, have occasionally been mentioned as a possible destination, though Bleacher Report last month cited several league insiders, who all believe Kawhi isn’t too keen on wearing the purple and gold alongside LeBron James in the 2019-20 season.
Kawhi Leonard got buckets tonight ????????
15-22 from the field
4-8 from deep
And the win. pic.twitter.com/tQUl4vC2S5
— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) April 17, 2019
After spending seven seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, where he won two Defensive Player of the Year awards and also emerged as the team’s go-to guy on offense, Leonard was traded to the Raptors in the summer of 2018 in a deal that sent shooting guard DeMar DeRozan to the Spurs. In 60 regular-season games with Toronto this year, he averaged 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.8 steals, while shooting 49.6 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from beyond the arc. As shown on his Basketball-Reference player page, he was also named to his third career All-Star Game earlier this year.
The new report on Kawhi Leonard comes shortly after a similar report claimed that many league observers do not expect Kevin Durant to return to the Golden State Warriors for the 2019-20 season. As reported earlier on Wednesday by The Inquisitr, Tim Kawakami of the subscriber-only outlet The Athletic wrote this week that this may be the case for Durant even if the Warriors live up to expectations and win a third straight league championship in this year’s NBA Finals.