There are a handful of players for which the Miami Heat would stop at nothing to sign if they were to become available in free agency, and Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard is high on that list.
Leonard made it clear that he won’t be discussing whether or not he’ll opt-in or out with the Clippers until the postseason concluded. And if the Clippers win the NBA title, there’s zero doubt the six-time All-Star will sign his $36 million player option and remain in Los Angeles.
However, with the Clippers already down 0-2 to the Utah Jazz amid the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, Bleacher Report‘s Dan Favale believes Leonard moving to South Beach “could totally happen… if Kawhi wills it to happen.”
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Let’s say that the Clippers don’t win the title (possible!), and that Leonard wants a co-star better than Playoff P, someone closer to Regular Season P, but in the postseason. Let’s then assume that Los Angeles is unable to materially upgrade the roster within its financial constraints, and that Leonard is willing to shop around, and that Miami doesn’t mind missing out on other free agents while lusting after this pie-in-the-sky play. The Heat, in that scenario, make a lot of sense.
The Athletic‘s Sam Amick and John Hollinger suggested back in April that Leonard would remain with the Clippers, also noting that could change depending on how his team fares in the playoffs. If the Clippers get swept by the Utah Jazz, the door swings wide open for the San Deigo State alum to feel out his options elsewhere.
Leonard to the Heat Would Create a Monster Big 3 in Miami
Leonard, who finished the regular season averaging 24.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, would elevate any franchise. If former two-time NBA Finals MVP wants to add a third championship ring to his collection, the odds of making that happen increase ten-fold by joining the Heat.
“Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler give him two co-stars instead of one, albeit they both turned in lamentable playoff performances this year,” Favale wrote. “Making it to the conference finals remains easier in the East than the West, so long as you don’t meet the Brooklyn Nets prior to Round 3. Miami is just as desirable a place to live as L.A.”
On June 10, Miami Herald‘s Barry Jackson reported on Miami possibly doing a sign and trade for Leonard. “The Heat obviously would do that in a heartbeat if Leonard wanted that,” Jackson surmised.
Heat President Pat Riley Discussed Adding a Third Big Name for Next Season
The Heat would absolutely benefit by adding another All-Star to complement the team’s core that is Butler and Adebayo. With Victor Oladipo‘s future still up in the air, and possibly up to $34 million in additional cap space if they release both Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala, Riley could make a blockbuster move to sign a top-tier free agent this summer.
“We’ll see,” Riley said during his annual postseason media conference on June 3, as reported by Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson. “The market will determine a lot of that as we move forward. I like the nucleus of our team. We have a great core with Jimmy [Butler] and Bam [Adebayo]; regardless of how they performed in the playoffs, we didn’t make a mistake on those guys.”
“I have a pretty good idea of what we have and where we are headed,” Riley said, “Despite the result of the Milwaukee series, which was bad… We are ready to move forward.”