It’s a matter of “same city, new threat” when it comes to the Toronto Raptors and their quest to keep Kawhi Leonard.
Months after the Los Angeles Clippers were identified as the biggest threat to poach star Leonard away from the team he just took to its first NBA title, new reports indicate that the Lakers have emerged as the frontrunner for Leonard. Taking to Twitter earlier this week, Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that since the Lakers managed the cap space to land the All-Star, the team has jumped into the lead for the Leonard sweepstakes.
As SLAM noted, the Lakers would be able to offer Leonard the opportunity to play alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis in what looks to be an immediate title contender. The Lakers had been in a cap limbo after the Davis trade, with even the team’s front office reportedly not sure exactly where they would stand in terms of space to sign another star player. With more clarity and the ability to offer a competitive deal to Leonard, many expect the Lakers to be aggressive in filling out the missing pieces for a team that disappointed in the first year of the LeBron James era.
The Clippers may not be out of contention yet, Stein wrote. He said that the Lakers intracity rival may still be able to land Leonard if they can also convince Kevin Durant to sign there first. As SLAM noted, that will be a tall order as Durant has, for months, been connected to the New York Knicks.
While the Los Angeles teams are expected to be contenders for Kawhi Leonard, the Toronto Raptors may still have the inside track. As ESPN reported, Kawhi is expected to let the Raptors make the final pitch after he hears out other teams in free agency. Raptors president Masai Ujiri has been in communication with both Leonard and his uncle/adviser, Dennis Robertson, and said this week he is “confident” that Leonard will return to Toronto.
“We’ll wait. He’s our player and he’s a superstar on our team and we’ll wait on that,” Ujiri said.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 29, 2019
The Raptors may also be the most motivated team to sign Kawhi Leonard. After shipping off fan-favorite DeMar DeRozan to land Leonard, who then led the team to both its first trip to the NBA Finals and its first-ever title. Ujiri’s comments also seem to imply that the Raptors are willing to match or surpass other offers that Leonard might receive.