Kawhi Leonard, coming off an NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors, is scheduled to reach free agency when the official negotiating period begins next Sunday.
Now, a new report says that Leonard may be considering staying put.
Yahoo Sports reported on Sunday that Leonard, in an expected move, has declined his player option for next season, at $21.3 million, which will officially allow him to enter free agency. However, the same report stated that Leonard “is believed to be seriously considering re-signing with the Raptors.”
The Yahoo story added that “rival executives” believe that the Raptors are the favorite to keep Leonard, due in part to the trust that’s been established between the player and the front office during the player’s one season in Canada.
In addition, New York Times NBA writer Marc Stein tweeted on Sunday that Leonard could sign a two-year $70 million contract to stay with Toronto, and structure the deal with a player option for year two. This would allow Leonard to re-enter free agency a year from now, and either sign a max contract at that point, or leave Toronto for another team. In LeBron James’ second stint in Cleveland, his contracts were structured in a way similar to that.
When Leonard demanded a trade from his previous team, the San Antonio Spurs, last summer, it was widely believed that he wanted to move to one of the teams in Los Angeles, either the Lakers or Clippers. Instead, he was traded to Toronto, where he went on to lead the Raptors to their first-ever NBA championship, while having the best season of his career statistically.
Leonard scored 26.6 points per game this past season, nearly 10 points more per game than his career average of 17.7.
Yahoo Sources: Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard declining $21.3 million player option to become unrestricted free agent with the Finals MVP seriously considering re-signing. https://t.co/cWhpcyyjXO pic.twitter.com/c8qNBOi0Nu
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 23, 2019
Reports in recent weeks, per The Inquisitr, have stated that Leonard plans to meet with both Los Angeles teams, as well as the two New York teams — the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets — in addition to the Raptors. Other reports have Leonard meeting with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Toronto, as Leonard’s current team, can offer him five years and $190 million, while other teams can only offer four years, and less money.
In addition to Leonard, other top players in unrestricted free agency this offseason include Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Khris Middleton, Kemba Walker, and Al Horford. Teams are free to begin negotiating with free agents from other teams on Sunday, June 30.