With the Toronto Raptors in the middle of an intense second-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, the team is firmly in contention to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals this year. Leading the way for the Raptors is their big acquisition from the past summer, Kawhi Leonard, who, per Basketball-Reference, is averaging 32.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists in nine playoff games thus far. But with Leonard due to enter free agency this summer, there has been a lot of speculation regarding his potential landing spots for the coming 2019-20 season, ever since he arrived in Toronto via a trade with the San Antonio Spurs.
Although most recent reports have linked Leonard to his hometown Los Angeles Clippers, the latest update from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski suggests that the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year winner could opt to remain in Canada instead when the time comes for him to make his free agency decision. As quoted by Sporting News, Wojnarowski said on Monday’s edition of his Woj Pod podcast that if Leonard chooses to re-sign with the Raptors, it will come after one full season of the team “[selling] him” on the benefits of playing in Toronto.
“I do think they’ve made progress with him,” he continued. “I think they’ve made pretty good progress with him from the sense I have. They put themselves in it. And when Kawhi showed up there, I’m not sure he imagined any future in Toronto. I do think it’s a serious consideration now.”
Wojnarowski also noted that the Raptors are convincing Kawhi Leonard to stay with the team by selling him on a winning culture, given that the team cannot do anything about the traditionally cold weather in Toronto.
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) May 6, 2019
After playing his entire career prior to this season for the San Antonio Spurs, the Raptors acquired Leonard and veteran wingman Danny Green last summer, in a trade that sent shooting guard DeMar DeRozan and center Jakob Poeltl to the Spurs. In 60 regular-season games with Toronto, Leonard averaged 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.8 steals per game, as he returned to form after missing all but nine games for the Spurs in the 2017-18 NBA season due to injuries.
Although it won’t be surprising if Leonard chooses to remain a Raptor when the 2019 free agency period begins, the possibility of him signing with the Los Angeles Clippers could still loom large for the All-Star forward. In a separate appearance on ESPN’s Get Up!(via ClutchPoints), Wojnarowski recently said that many teams will likely try to sign Leonard this summer, though his decision will likely boil down to two teams — the Raptors and the Clippers. He also pointed out that the Raptors could also have the advantage of being able to pay Leonard more than $200 million if he opts to stay in Toronto.