The Toronto Raptors made a huge gamble when they traded their most loyal player, DeMar DeRozan, to acquire Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs last summer. Before the blockbuster deal took place, Leonard informed every interested team that he would be signing with one of the Los Angeles teams in the 2019 NBA free agency. Still, Raptors President Masai Ujiri pushed through with the trade, believing that they can convince Leonard to re-sign like what the Oklahoma City Thunder did to Paul George.
In a recent interview with Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times, Raptors General Manager Bobby Webster discussed Kawhi Leonard and his impending free agency. Though they remain optimistic that they can bring Leonard back, Webster admitted that the outcome of the 2018-19 NBA season will play a major role in Leonard’s decision in the summer of 2019.
“Of course there is. There is,” Webster said of postseason success correlating to Leonard’s decision, as quoted by Lakers Nation. “It’s not all about what happens at the end of the season. It’s about what’s gone on to this point. From the day we acquired him, it’s the ground work.”
If they fail to at least make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, there is a strong chance that Kawhi Leonard will part ways with the Raptors in the 2019 NBA offseason. The NBA Playoffs 2019 has just started, but according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, a former NBA player revealed that some of Leonard’s teammates are already sensing that he will leave Toronto for Los Angeles next summer.
“One former player said Leonard’s teammates expect him to leave for Los Angeles after the season, although he didn’t specify which franchise.Outside of a few who suggest Leonard might choose the Lakers, it seems almost everyone around the league (dating back to last July) believes Leonard will join the Clippers instead.”
Both the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers will have enough salary cap space to give Kawhi Leonard a max contract in the 2019 NBA free agency. The Lakers purposely filled their roster with one-year contracts in order to maintain their salary cap flexibility for the summer of 2019 where they will be more aggressive in finding a second superstar who can play alongside LeBron James. However, since the 2018-19 NBA season starter, there were growing speculations that Leonard isn’t interested in teaming up with James, making the Clippers a more likely destination for “The Claw” in free agency.
After giving Leonard a max contract, the Clippers will still have enough money to bring in another superstar like Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Kemba Walker next summer.