NBA Rumors: Kawhi Leonard Could Leave Paul George For Jimmy Butler If Clippers 'Implode Again' In 2021 Playoffs

Kawhi Leonard talking to Jimmy Butler after the game
Gettyimages | Vaughn Ridley
Basketball

Los Angeles Clippers small forward Kawhi Leonard is expected to test the free agency market once again after the 2020-21 NBA season. Per Spotrac, Leonard has a player option on his contract that would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent in the 2021 offseason. As of now, Leonard is focused on helping the Clippers win their first NBA championship title this year.

The Clippers may have entered the season as one of the favorites to bring home the Larry O'Brien Trophy, but their road to championship won't be easy, especially with the emergence of powerhouse teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, and the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference.

Kawhi Leonard Could Leave Hollywood  If They Underperform In 2021 Playoffs

Kawhi Leonard preparing to attack the basket
Gettyimages | Douglas P. DeFelice

The outcome of the 2020-21 NBA season is expected to play a major role in Leonard's decision in the 2021 free agency. If they win the 2021 NBA championship title or at least reach the NBA Finals, it is highly unlikely that Leonard would already end his partnership with Paul George in the 2021 offseason. However, if the Clippers fall short once again and suffer an early playoff exit, Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer thinks that Leonard may consider reevaluating his future with the Clippers.

Kawhi Leonard Joins Forces With Jimmy Butler In South Beach

If his decision to team up with George turned out to be a massive failure, O'Connor believes that Leonard may consider joining forces with Jimmy Butler in South Beach in the 2021 free agency.

"However, before recruiting George to L.A., Leonard first chased Butler, who was also a free agent at the time. If the Clippers were to implode again in the playoffs and enter another summer with no assets to make needle-moving decisions with a Leonard-George core, Leonard has a $36 million player option for the 2021-22 season and could test the market if he so desires. The Heat would have the cap space and trade assets to make an enticing pitch to him; if this unrealistic scenario were to happen, many other teams would also put themselves in the running."

Heat Ready To Go After Kawhi Leonard

If Leonard really decides to entertain offers from other teams in the 2021 free agency, Heat president Pat Riley would surely do everything he can to bring the All-Star small forward to South Beach. There are numerous reasons why Leonard would consider the Heat as his next landing spot.

As O'Connor noted, Butler was among Leonard's top choices to become his superstar running mate in Los Angeles before the Clippers acquired George from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Also, the Heat have enough salary cap space to offer Leonard a maximum contract. If Leonard wants the Heat to make major roster upgrades, they also currently have a plethora of trade assets to engage in a blockbuster deal in the 2021 offseason.

Acquisition Of Kawhi Leonard Enough To Challenge Nets In The East

The successful acquisition of Leonard in the 2021 free agency would undeniably change the Heat's fate in the 2021-22 NBA season. Having the trio of Butler, Leonard, and Bam Adebayo would give the Heat a fighting chance against the Nets' superteam of Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and LaMarcus Aldridge.

In Leonard, the Heat would be having another superstar who is capable of taking charge of their offense in crucial situations when the opposing team's defense is focused on Butler. Also, like Butler, Leonard could also be tasked to guard the opposing team's best player.