Kawhi Leonard turned down his player option for the 2019-20 season, meaning he is back on the free agency market starting June 30. As Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported Sunday, Leonard declined his $21.3 million paycheck from Toronto due for next year, but he is “seriously considering” returning to the Raptors.
Toronto is the team that can provide a max contract of $190 million for five years. Otherwise, other teams could reel in the 2-time Finals MVP for $140 million. Haynes writes that Leonard’s trust with the Raptors’ organization is outweighing his desire to return to his roots in Southern California.
The appeal of returning home to Southern California is enticing to the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but with the trust the Raptors built while Leonard led the franchise to its first NBA title by upsetting the Golden State Warriors, rival executives view his current team as the favorite to land him when the free-agent negotiating period begins June 30, sources said.
This thought process is shared by OddsShark oddsmaker Gilles Gallant, who released odds for Leonard’s future destinations. Let’s take a look.
Kawhi Leonard Free Agency Odds for 2019-20
- Toronto Raptors: -225
- Los Angeles Clippers: +175
- Los Angeles Lakers: +800
Gallant writes that not only will Leonard by a Canadian sports legend for years to come, but his strong relationship with Raptors president Masai Ujiri makes Toronto a favorite to land him for a max deal.
I think Kawhi also has a great relationship with Ujiri, who took a risk on him after he only played nine games last season and was labeled a malcontent due to his unceremonious exit from San Antonio. I think it’s highly unlikely he leaves Toronto now due to all the different reports coming out and Toronto has done everything and more to prove to Kawhi that this is a franchise worth re-signing with.
The Clippers, Gallant writes, did everything possible to recruit Leonard to Los Angeles. They sent team representative to games, built cap space for two max free agents and made themselves more attractive with a run to the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Lakers are in the discussion simply due to location. The front office dysfunction is not a selling point, especially compared to Ujiri’s superior work this past season.
For now, all the momentum is north of the border. Our own Anthony Koon pointed out the video of his teammate Danny Green saying that Toronto “would be a hard place to turn down.”
“He loves winning,” Green said. “I think that’s a main priority for him. So I think the city, the fans have done their job. The organization has done their job. It’s going to be a hard place to turn down. It’s going to be a hard place to leave knowing you can win, run it back, have a great team and have a city of fans that love you and that are willing to give you damn near everything.”
As noted by OddsShark, the Knicks and Nets are also longshots to land Leonard. It seems the only one that thinks Brooklyn is a possibility is Samuel L. Jackson, though.