Lakers Predicted to Land Kawhi Leonard Over Raptors in Free Agency

Lakers Kawhi Leonard free agency LeBron James

Getty The Lakers lost out on Kawhi Leonard to their neighbors.

Kawhi Leonard was expected to make an announcement today on his free agency, and one analyst predicted the Los Angeles Lakers would land their third All-Star. Fox Sports’ Cris Carter reported that Leonard’s decision would come on Friday, July 5th, and he believed Leonard was headed to the Lakers over the Raptors. Carter cited the opportunity to win “as many championships as possible” as the deciding factor.

“For Kawhi, this is about which organization is going to support his quest to be the best player in the world and get as many championships as possible. To me, the only team that presents that is the Lakers. I believe there’s going to be an announcement today,” Carter noted on Fox Sports.

Carter has since backtracked from his original report noting that Leonard is “undecided” and will not make an announcement on July 5.

“#KawhiUpdate: After looking like we would find out today, we will not. Kawhi is still undecided & is not going to finalize his decision today. Also, contrary to other reports, Kawhi is NOT interested in signing a 1 or 2 year deal. When he signs, it will be a long term contract,” Carter tweeted later on July 5th conflicting with his previous report.

The Hall-of-Fame receiver originally pointed to Leonard’s request to be traded to the Lakers when he was with the Spurs as proof of his top option. If the Lakers are able to sign Leonard, it would contradict ESPN’s Jalen Rose’s report that the Raptors had a “99 percent” chance to re-sign Leonard.

“The exact quote from Jalen: ‘What I’m 99% hearing is that Kawhi Leonard will be returning to Toronto and signing a 2-year contract, just completed his 8th season, that will put him at 10 years and put him in position to get largest maximum deal for a player of his tenure,'” USA Today’s Dan Wolken tweeted.

The Clippers Have Reportedly Been Eliminated From the Kawhi Sweepstakes

If Leonard does make an announcement today, it would end a nearly weeklong process where the All-Star took meetings with the Lakers, Raptors and Clippers. Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard reported that the Clippers have been eliminated from contention, and Leonard was deciding between the Lakers and Raptors. Broussard described the race between the two teams as “very close.”

“Kawhi Update: Raptors had strong meeting yesterday. Drake heavily involved. Talked of having Kawhi involved w/his OVO record label. Kawhi in deep soul searching. Wants Lakers but wants to make sure Big 3 will fit/work. Clippers out. It’s btwn Lakers & Raptors. Very close,” Broussard tweeted.

LeBron’s Pitch to Kawhi Involved Handing Over the Team

Earlier this week, Heavy detailed LeBron James’ pitch to Leonard showing his willingness to take a backseat to the forward if he opted to come to L.A. The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported that the Lakers believed they were “firmly in the lead” for Leonard.

“What we know: 1. The Lakers, as we’ve been saying for more than a week now, believe they are firmly in the lead largely through the recruiting efforts and assurances made on separate fronts from Magic Johnson and LeBron James…” Stein reported on Twitter.

Many have speculated about Leonard’s future, but the All-Star has been mostly quiet about where he will be next season. Nothing is a sure thing until Leonard makes the announcement himself. Broussard also reported earlier this week that the Lakers were Leonard’s “first choice.”

“I’m being told the Lakers are Kawhi Leonard’s first choice. He and his camp spoke with Magic yesterday and laid out what they want from the Lakers. Nothing crazy, just some additions to the staff and asking ‘Is Kawhi going to be treated like LeBron in the organization?’, and all of that. As long as Jeanie doesn’t do anything to screw it up in the meeting I’m told that’s his first choice,” Broussard said on Fox Sports Radio.