Kawhi Leonard’s Free Agency a ‘2-Team Race,’ Says Analyst

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Getty Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard

The future of Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard has been a major talking point, and until 2019 NBA free agency is in the rearview mirror, it’s unlikely to cool off. After the Raptors acquired Leonard via trade with the San Antonio Spurs, the hope was that he could lead the team to an NBA title and they would then be able to re-sign him to a long-term deal.

With the Raptors now in the Eastern Conference Finals and battling with the Milwaukee Bucks for a chance to head to the NBA Finals, one of those two things is very much on the table. As for the other? That’s anyone’s guess at this point. Leonard has consistently kept things close to his chest and avoided revealing much on future plans, assuming he’s even thought about free agency.

But in the eyes of one analyst, it appears the battle for Leonard in free agency is down to two teams, and Raptors fans may want to shield their eyes.

Kawhi Leonard Free Agency: Knicks & Clippers Outlook

It’s hard to envision a situation where the Raptors advance to the NBA Finals and potentially take down the Golden State Warriors, followed by Leonard opting to leave town. Even if they don’t win the title this year, the 27-year-old forward has put together a career year and is going to be a top target for a number of teams.

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But according to FS1 analyst Cris Carter on a recent episode of First Things First, it appears he believes Leonard’s free agency will be a “two-team race” between the Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks.

“I can believe there’s going to be three teams in the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes. That being the Clippers, I know the Lakers would like to be, I don’t believe they’ll be able to get in there to be able to make a mark, and the Knicks.”

“I believe it’s a two-team race between the Clippers and the Knicks. The Raptors, I just believe, without a championship, Kawhi is a different person. Don’t get caught up into the emotion, don’t react to this the way you would react, try to think about Kawhi because he’s the person making a decision.” Carter stated.

While those comments are certainly interesting, when he went a bit further on the Raptors, Carter appeared to backtrack somewhat. During the same segment and just shortly after the above statement, he says that Toronto has “a chance” and then states they “might have a slight edge.”

“Toronto does have a chance, so does New York, and so do the Clippers … because he’s playing in Toronto and he is a loyalty guy, they might have a slight edge, but those other two teams got real possibilities.” Carter said.

Although he went around in a bit of a circle, his point essentially appears to be that the Clippers and Knicks will be at the forefront for Leonard this offseason. While the Clippers were believed to have been in the mix since trade talks last offseason, many rumors have swirled around both teams.

Kawhi Leonard’s Free Agency Rumors & Best Fits

While Carter and many others have pointed to the Knicks as a potential landing spot for Leonard in free agency, there’s a strong belief that the duo of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving could land there. Whether or not that plays out is a massive question mark, and the Knicks very well may pursue Kawhi, but if he’s put on the backburner for Durant and Irving, that could impact the outcome.

Realistically, Leonard could be wise to remain with the Raptors and allow them to continue building around him. They’ve shown the willingness to make big moves and continue to strengthen their core group. Most importantly, the arrow is clearly pointing up right now in Toronto.

I’d love to see how Leonard and LeBron James could work together with the Los Angeles Lakers, but the popular belief is that the Clippers have the edge in the battle for L.A. currently. Although Carter points to the Knicks and Clippers, I’d keep the latter team as a top landing spot, but replace the former with the Raptors if making a free agency prediction.

READ NEXT: Kawhi Leonard Offered Multi-Million-Dollar House to Stay With Raptors

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