NBA Insider: Future of Heat All-Star May Depend on Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard future

Getty Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard.

Could Victor Oladipo’s future with the Miami Heat depend on Los Angeles Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard? Heat insider Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel named Leonard as one of a few players whose offseason decisions may sway what Miami decides to do about the two-time NBA All-Star.

The 29-year-old Heat guard was forced to miss the remainder of the season after partially tearing a tendon in his quadriceps, and he recently had surgery to repair it. According to Winderman, the Heat may ultimately base their decision about Oladipo’s future on whether Kawhi declines his player option or not.

“The expectation in the wake of the procedure is that Oladipo would not be ready to return to court work until November or possibly even later, likely limiting his 2021-22 action to the second half of the season, if that,” Winderman wrote, adding:

“The chances of Oladipo returning to the Heat could come down to whether the team attempts to maximize salary-cap space to sign an outside free agent, such as Kyle Lowry or, possibly, Kawhi Leonard, or instead opts to operate above the salary cap and prioritize retaining the current roster.”

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If Kawhi Declines, He Would Be the Most Sought-After Name on the Market

Rob Goldberg of Bleacher Report brought up the highly unlikely scenario in which Leonard declines his option from the Clippers, and he has a point when noting Leonard would be one of the more attractive available players should he turn down his option:

“The 2021 free-agent class has fewer game-changing superstars than past years, especially after Giannis Antetokounmpo signed a new deal with the Milwaukee Bucks,” Goldberg wrote. “But Kawhi Leonard could hit the open market if he declines his $36 million player option. There are also proven veterans possibly set to hit the market like Kyle Lowry and Chris Paul, as well as intriguing restricted free agents like John Collins and Lonzo Ball.”

Leonard Likely Won’t Turn Down His Player Option

The decision is his whether he opts out or not, but Leonard has made it clear he’s not discussing it until the season — and the postseason — have concluded.

“For my situation right now, I’m just focused on this season,” Leonard said last December, via Sports Illustrated. “I’m not saying I’m going anywhere else or staying here, but I’m just focused on the season. Obviously, if I stay healthy, the best decision is to decline a player option, but that doesn’t mean I’m leaving or staying… We’ll talk about that when the time is right.”

An April report by Sam Amick and John Hollinger of The Athletic strongly suggested Leonard would remain in L.A. with the Clippers, but much could also depend on how the Clips perform in the upcoming NBA Playoffs. Should Leonard and company look good and go deep in the postseason, his choice seems obvious. But if L.A. trips and falls in a big way and makes an early exit? Things could get a lot more interesting where Kawhi’s option in concerned.

Stay tuned, Clipper Nation.

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