Kawhi Leonard has reportedly made his final decision, and it appears that the Lakers have had the rug pulled out from under them.
Since the start of free agency on Sunday evening, various reports have indicated that the Lakers were in the lead to land the recent NBA Finals MVP, and some even claimed that the deal was close to being completed. Now, a series of new reports say there’s been a swing in the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes, and it appears the Raptors managed to come out ahead.
As NESN noted, the Raptors were able to make the final pitch to Leonard after he already flew out to his hometown of Los Angeles to meet with the Lakers and Clippers. There are already indications that the Raptors had the winning pitch, which made its way back to ESPN’s Jalen Rose.
“What I’m 99 percent hearing is that Kawhi Leonard will be returning to Toronto,” Rose said on Wednesday, via NESN.
The rumors of Kawhi Leonard’s return to the Raptors was also shared later on Wednesday by ESPN’s Mark Jones on Twitter, who said a league agent confirmed that he would be back in Toronto next year.
Kawhi Leonard’s decision has garnered the most attention in a free agent season where the excitement was largely over within minutes of starting on Sunday evening. Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Brooklyn Nets leaked just ahead of his 6 p.m. decision, Klay Thompson’s decision to stay with the Golden State Warriors was announced weeks ahead of time, and others, like Kyrie Irving, also made their decision known.
Kawhi Leonard’s decision could surpass them all in terms of importance to the league. Should he choose the Los Angeles Lakers, he would join LeBron James and Anthony Davis in what could be an early title favorite, taking advantage of a Western Conference that has grown increasingly competitive with the splintering of the Golden State Warriors. Joining the Clippers would also keep some balance of power in the Western Conference.
If Kawhi Leonard decides to stay with the NBA Champion Toronto Raptors, it could shift that power back to the Eastern Conference, where the Raptors would likely return the same core that won the title this year and where the Brooklyn Nets are suddenly a major contended with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
It is not clear exactly when Kawhi Leonard plans to make his decision, but reports indicate that he remained in Toronto on Wednesday and was meeting with Raptors team management.