Less than two weeks after Kawhi Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA championship in franchise history, the star player is expected to declare for free agency on June 30.
There has been much speculation about Leonard’s future, with some believing that Leonard will seek to sign with one of the teams in his native Southern California, or that the high of a championship win in his first season in Toronto will lead Leonard to remain in Canada.
A new report indicates that Leonard will cast a wide net for his next home.
Cris Carter said on Fox Sports 1’s First Things First Monday, per the show’s Twitter account, that Leonard will consider five teams in free agency — the Raptors, the two Los Angeles teams (the Lakers and Clippers), and the two New York teams (the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets).
Carter added that the Raptors “have done everything the right away” throughout Leonard’s first season in Toronto and that the superstar forward “couldn’t be happier” with the Raptors organization, including their coaches and medical staff. In between that, the championship, and the Raptors’ ability as Leonard’s incumbent team to “pay him the most,” make the Raptors the favorite to land Leonard going forward.
However, according to the commentator, Leonard will have sitdown meetings with the other four teams. When Leonard, who was born in Los Angeles, demanded a trade from his previous team, the San Antonio Spurs, last summer, he was thought to want a move to the Lakers or Clippers. Instead, the Spurs traded Leonard to Toronto,
The Lakers, following the trade for Anthony Davis, would prospectively be adding Leonard to a “superteam” that would also include LeBron James. However, the Lakers are not expected to be able to offer max money to a free agent, unless they delay the completion of the Davis trade until the end of July.
They can offer him more money. They have done everything they can do. The team would build a statue tomorrow. But after Kawhi Leonard made other teams despair at how to stop him, the Toronto Raptors are now at the mercy of Kawhi: https://t.co/rnIFHFodnJ
— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) June 17, 2019
The Clippers have built a roster with a strong nucleus that would work well with the addition of a superstar, which was similar to the setup that Leonard had when he first arrived in Toronto. The two New York teams have not often been mentioned as Leonard destinations.
It may seem strange for Carter, who played in the NFL and is a Pro Football Hall of Famer, to be breaking a story about the NBA. But Carter’s agent throughout his career, Mitch Frankel, now represents Leonard, per The Big Lead.
In addition, Carter’s brother, Butch Carter, was the head coach of the Raptors from 1997 to 2000.