The NBA was captivated for weeks this summer with the saga of where NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard would sign, with Leonard choosing from among the Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Clippers. After Leonard waited nearly a week longer than every other major free agent, the player chose the Clippers — who also made a shocking move, at the same time, to acquire Paul George from Oklahoma City.
Now, there’s a chance he’ll do it all over again in two years.
Per a tweet by reporter Shams Charania of The Athletic, Leonard has officially signed his contract with the Clippers. The deal is for three years and $103 million — and Leonard will have a player option after two years, giving him a chance to re-enter free agency in the summer of 2021. George’s contract also expires that summer.
The original reports about Leonard’s contract, per a tweet by Chris Haynes on the day of the player’s commitment to the Clippers, listed the deal as four years at $141.1 million, and there was no mention of opt-outs. Frequent rumors during Leonard’s free agency, per CBC, stated that the player was considering a contract with Toronto that would allow him to re-enter free agency after one year.
Just because Leonard has the power to opt out, however, doesn’t mean that he necessarily will, and even if he does opt out, it doesn’t mean that he will leave the Clippers. There’s a chance that the league’s salary cap and max contract threshold will be higher in two years than they are now, which would enable Leonard to opt out of his contract in 2021 and sign for more money with the Clippers than he is currently earning.
During LeBron James’ second stint with Cleveland, his contracts were structured this way, and he repeatedly opted out and re-signed, until he left in 2018 to join the Los Angeles Lakers.
Both Leonard and George are from Southern California, and both players had, in the past, requested trades to Los Angeles. Now that they’ve ended up there after trades to other teams, it would appear that both will want to stick around L.A. for the long haul. But we know, at least, that Leonard will have the option of a new contract in two years.
The Clippers, per their ESPN.com depth chart, are likely to run out a starting lineup next season of Leonard, George, guards Patrick Beverley and Landry Shamet, and center Ivica Zubac, with Lou Williams, JaMychal Green, and Montrezl Harrell the first players off the bench.