The Toronto Raptors earned plenty of criticisms when they traded DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Kawhi Leonard last summer. Luckily, their sacrifices paid off as Leonard led them to the NBA Finals for the first time in their franchise history, and helped them bring home the first Larry O’Brien Trophy to Toronto. Unfortunately, the outcome of the 2018-19 NBA season doesn’t seem to have a major effect on Leonard’s decision in the 2019 NBA free agency.
Despite winning his second NBA championship while in Toronto, Kawhi Leonard hasn’t fully committed to re-signing with the Raptors this summer. Raptors fans somehow felt a sense of relief when Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports revealed that Leonard is “seriously considering” a return to Toronto. Unfortunately, hours before the 2019 NBA free agency officially begins, Chris Broussard of Fox Sports said in a Twitter post that there’s a growing belief around the league that the Raptors’ chances of bringing Leonard back are already “fading.”
“Hearing Raptors chances of keeping Kawhi are fading. A return to SoCal – either team – getting more and more likely.”
Since the 2018 NBA offseason, most people viewed Kawhi Leonard as a one-year rental for the Raptors. When he demanded a trade from the Spurs, Leonard had reportedly informed interested teams that he would be signing with one of his two hometown teams — the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers — when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019.
Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant …. together? On the Knicks? It could happen. Maybe. https://t.co/7xpSV7d5KC
— USA TODAY NBA (@usatodaynba) June 29, 2019
As of now, it seems like Kawhi Leonard’s interest in playing in Los Angeles is real. Both the Lakers and the Clippers have enough salary cap space to offer Leonard a max contract in the 2019 NBA free agency. However, between the two NBA teams situated in Los Angeles, Marc Stein of the New York Times revealed in a Twitter post that the Lakers are emerging as a “true threat” to the Raptors in Leonard sweepstakes.
“Things change fast in #thisleague: With free agency a day and change away, it’s the Lakers who have convinced Las Vegas — and an increasing number of league insiders — that they are LA’s true threat to limiting Kawhi Leonard’s Raptors career to a single season. Not the Clippers.”
It’s definitely not a surprise that Kawhi Leonard is very much intrigued by joining the purple and gold. Leaving the Raptors for the Lakers will give him the rare opportunity to play alongside two of the best active players in the league: LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The “Big Three” of Leonard, James, and Davis would undeniably make the Lakers the favorite to dominate the Western Conference and win the NBA championship title in the 2019-20 NBA season.