The Clippers have made their offseason priorities very clear, and at the top of their list is recently-crowned NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Fortunately for LA, it appears that the team is also near the top of Leonard’s list.
Leonard has until June 29 to decide if he wants to opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent. It is expected that he will do so, purely for the financial benefits, since his new deal could be worth upwards of $9.5 million more in year one. Once he becomes a free agent, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski believes he’ll only have two real choices.
“The reality is that Kawhi Leonard is focused on Los Angeles, but it’s the Clippers, not the Lakers. No. 1, they don’t have the money to sign him, and two, the idea of him being a third wheel on a team trying to create a superteam, that has not been Kawhi’s M.O. The Clippers are poised to be able to lure him from Toronto, this will be a Raptors/Clippers fight.”
It has been common knowledge that the Clippers are in good position with Leonard after spending most of the 2018-19 season silently recruiting him. The team’s top three targets this offseason were Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, and Leonard. LA refrained from offering too much for Davis, given his status as a one-year rental, and thus didn’t get too far in discussions with the Pelicans. Durant is still on the board, and the Clippers would probably still be interested in bringing him to Los Angeles, even if he can’t play in the upcoming season.
However, Leonard has been the apple of the team’s eye for months now, a Southern California native who doesn’t appear to want the media circus that comes for playing on the Lakers. He just proved that he is currently the best player in the league, and the Clippers can give him alpha status while still having the depth to continue the load management program that the Raptors implemented this past year.
All of this is still speculative, but enough sources have pegged the Clippers as the most likely option for Leonard outside of Toronto, and this is another kernel for LA to latch on to. It seems clear that Leonard will at least take a meeting with Steve Ballmer and Co., and when he does, that will be a pretty tempting pitch.