Kawhi Leonard Named As 'Ambitious Free-Agent Target' For Heat This Summer

Kawhi Leonard looking at the score board
Gettyimages | Katelyn Mulcahy
Basketball

Los Angeles Clippers small forward Kawhi Leonard is expected to be one of the most coveted superstars on the market in the 2021 offseason. Per Spotrac, Leonard has a player option in his contract that would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Leonard may be currently focused on helping the Clippers fully dominate the Western Conference and capture their first Larry O'Brien Trophy but if they once again fall short of achieving their main goal, there's a strong chance for him to leave Los Angeles in the 2021 free agency.

Potential Suitor In 2021 Free Agency - Miami Heat

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

One of the teams that are closely monitoring Leonard's situation in Los Angeles is the Miami Heat. In a recent article, Dan Favale of Bleacher Report named Leonard as the "ambitious free-agent target" for the Heat in the 2021 offseason. The Heat just experienced a huge embarrassment in the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

After representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals last year, the Heat suffered a first-round sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks this season. As of now, the Heat must be fully aware that they need more star power around Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in order to have a realistic chance of ending their title drought next year.

Jimmy Butler Could Recruit Kawhi Leonard To Heat

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

Once Leonard decides to hear offers from other teams in the 2021 free agency, Butler is expected to lead the Heat in recruiting the "Klaw" to South Beach. Butler is believed to have a good relationship with Leonard.

Before the Clippers acquired Paul George in the blockbuster deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder, it's worth noting that Leonard also tried to convince Butler to team up with him in Los Angeles. If Leonard is still interested in becoming his teammate, Butler should welcome him to Miami with open arms.

Heat Need To Engage In A Sign-And-Trade With Clippers

According to Favale, the Heat couldn't sign Leonard outright as an unrestricted free agent, especially if he demands a max contract this summer. To acquire Leonard, the Heat would need to engage in a sign-and-trade deal with the Clippers.

"In addition to spurning the Clippers, he'd also have to force a sign-and-trade. The Heat cannot afford his max salary even if they strip down the roster to Adebayo, Butler, Precious Achiuwa, Tyler Herro and KZ Okplala (their only guaranteed contracts), and joining a bare-bones supporting cast defeats the purpose of why Leonard would bolt L.A. in the first place."

Kawhi Leonard Could Make The Heat The Team To Beat In The East

Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler having a casual conversation duriing Team USA practice
Gettyimages | Ethan Miller

Even if the Heat would have to give up Tyler Herro in exchange for Leonard in the potential sign-and-trade deal with the Clippers, it's still should be a no-brainer. Leonard would tremendously boost the Heat's performance on both ends of the floor, giving them a very reliable scorer, playmaker, rebounder, lockdown defender, and floor-spacer.

This season, he averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.6 steals while shooting 51.2 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from beyond the arc, per ESPN. If Leonard, Butler, and Adebayo build good chemistry and manage to stay away from any major injury, the Heat are expected to become the team to fear in the Eastern Conference next season.