An official in the Lakers organization believes Kawhi Leonard will stay in Toronto, per a Hoops Central report quoting Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher. The NBA analyst went on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” to talk about Leonard’s potential thought process on his prolonged free agency decision.
He pointed out that one of the reasons the Clippers have faded in the discussions is that Leonard would have to carry that roster for a full season, rather than be offered the luxury of load management.
“You look at the Lakers, you have other stars that can carry the load,” Bucher said. “The Toronto Raptors have demonstrated for a full year…’Dude, we can get you to the Finals. We know how to handle you physically.’ That’s what’s going to put them ahead of the Clippers. That’s why they so desperately wanted a second star.”
Bucher’s news about the Lakers official is a change of pace from other reports on the Fox Sports network. Cris Carter reported that Leonard’s decision will likely be the Lakers, which he said will happen today. 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 said on Fox Sports.
There are several contradicting predictions and reports in the sports media sphere. ESPN’s Jalen Rose said earlier this week that he was “99 percent” sure that Leonard would stick with the Raptors.
“The exact quote from Jalen,” USA Today’s Dan Wolken tweeted: ‘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.'”
Danny Green’s Effect on Kawhi’s Decision
Our own Anthony Koon pointed out that Leonard’s Spurs and Raptors teammate Danny Green “might try to prioritize following Leonard wherever he goes.”
“If Toronto brings everyone back, I think we have a really good shot of coming out of the East again. So why would I not want to be there? But things change and things move. [If the Raptors can’t bring everyone back], there are going to be other teams who are in the running and I want to see what those situations are. Obviously, I want to maximize on the dollar, but I also want to maximize on the situation. I know I’m not an All-Star or star player, but I want to be remembered as a great role player who won a lot of games and leave my mark in the league.”
Green has been rumored to be looking at Philadelphia and the Lakers, as well as Toronto. If he and Leonard sign with the Raptors, there’s no room for subsequent signings, unless Toronto wants to spend tens of millions in luxury tax.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski offers a contrary opinion, saying that if “Kawhi goes to the Lakers, he probably goes to the Mavericks. If Kawhi goes anywhere else, Danny Green probably goes right into that Lakers cap space.”