Last summer, the Toronto Raptors made one of the biggest headlines when they engaged in a blockbuster deal with the San Antonio Spurs involving DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors earned plenty of criticisms with the controversial deal, especially from fans who believed that they traded their most loyal player for a possible one-year rental. Luckily, the Raptors managed to prove that they made the right decision after Leonard delivered the first NBA championship title in Toronto.
After bringing home the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the 2018-19 NBA season, the Raptors’ next goal is to secure Kawhi Leonard’s future in Toronto. Leonard is expected to opt out the final year of his contract to test the free agency market next July and since the blockbuster trade with the Spurs, the Raptors haven’t received any assurance that the All-Star forward will re-sign. In a recent interview with ESPN, Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet said that the team has already made their best effort to convince Leonard to stay in Toronto.
“If it’s enough then it’s enough. If it’s not then it’s not…. We would all love for him to be back and if he’s not then we will move on from there. It’s not the biggest deal in the world. He came here and did what he was supposed to do. So he brought this city a championship and I think he has earned his freedom and his career to do what he wants to do and we’ll all respect him and admire him.”
Fred VanVleet and most of his teammates have expressed high hopes that Kawhi Leonard will still be wearing a Raptors jersey in the 2019-20 NBA season. VanVleet joked that if Leonard will choose to sign with another team, the only thing they need to do is “kick his ass next year.” Leonard’s free agency decision will not only affect the Raptors but the landscape of the entire league.
Longtime teammate Danny Green, who will also hit the free agency market this summer, said that Kawhi Leonard’s free agency will also have an effect on other NBA player’s decision and can change a whole organization. Meanwhile, Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse admitted that he doesn’t have any idea whether Leonard will re-sign or not. However, Nurse believes that the Raptors have the ability to give Leonard a good deal in the 2019 NBA free agency.
“I think he had a good season and people like him here, and we can give him a good deal,” Nurse said.
So far, the Raptors still remain as one of the top favorites to sign Kawhi Leonard next July. Other NBA teams who have expressed strong interest in acquiring Leonard include the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets, and the New York Knicks.