It’s expected that when the 2019 NBA Playoffs wrap up and the eventual champion is crowned, the upcoming free agency pool will be loaded with big names. One of which will likely be Toronto Raptors star forward Kawhi Leonard. While the Raptors acquired Leonard via trade this offseason, his plans beyond this season remain unknown.
But if you believe what ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has to say, his next stop won’t be with the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James. While Smith didn’t say Leonard is bound to return to Toronto, he issued a strong argument against the forward creating a star pairing with LeBron in Los Angeles.
Kawhi Leonard More Likely to Land With Clippers Than Lakers?
During a segment about Leonard on ESPN’s First Take, Smith addressed Leonard’s upcoming free agency and specifically the Lakers. In short, he believes the 27-year-old is more likely to wind up as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers than teaming up with James.
“This is where we get into LeBron and Kawhi Leonard potential of that being an MJ-Scottie Pippen thing. That’s what people have been talking about … Here’s the deal – ain’t no way in hell that’s going to be the case.” Smith said.
After his strong statement on Leonard’s future, he proceeds to explain why the two-time All-NBA forward isn’t an ideal fit with the Lakers.
“If you’re Kawhi Leonard, you don’t want to play with LeBron. No matter how phenomenal that appears to be. Here’s why, because LeBron is ball dominant when he’s at his best. That ain’t what Kawhi wants, in my opinion. So I would be surprised if Kawhi ended up with the Lakers instead of the Clippers, for that reason.”
The argument makes some sense, and there have been previous rumblings that Leonard could prefer joining the Clippers over the Lakers. While he has one year remaining on his current deal, the 2019-20 season is a player option, and it’s a virtual lock that Leonard will receive max contract offers once he hits the open market.
Kawhi Leonard’s Top Potential Free Agent Landing Spots
The Clippers make a lot of sense for Leonard in free agency, and it’s likely that they’ll make a major run at him this offseason. But considering the fact that he’s not exactly an open book with his future plans, the potential for him to remain with the Raptors can’t be taken off the table. His feelings on the team and situation are unknown, but if Toronto wins the title this season, it could drastically help their chances.
Although Smith believes the Lakers aren’t a fit for Leonard, they’re bound to place themselves in the mix this offseason, depending on how things with the Anthony Davis trade talks go. Two other teams who are talked about often as top free agent destinations are the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets.
The Knicks are going to have two max contract spots and could make a run at Leonard along with someone like Kevin Durant potentially. On the other hand, the Nets have already turned a corner and are closer to being legitimate title contenders at this moment, but that could change following this offseason.