Before the start of the season, Kawhi Leonard said that if he stayed healthy, the best decision for his future would be to decline his player option for the 2021-22 season.
Leonard didn’t stay entirely healthy, but he has opted out nonetheless, becoming an unrestricted free agent for the second time in his career, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard is expected to decline his $36 million player option to become an unrestricted free agent, league sources tell @YahooSports.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) August 1, 2021
The choice to decline his option doesn’t mean that Leonard plans to leave the Clippers. All of the credible reports around the league indicate that Leonard will be staying with his hometown team. There is really no risk for Leonard to seek a new contract; anyone in the league will pay him exactly what he wants.
Leonard has a few options when it comes to his next deal.
Since he has spent two years with the Clippers, the team has his early bird rights, so they can offer him a contract up to four years at the max. They can’t give him a five-year deal until they have his full bird rights.
Either Leonard signs the four year deal that is currently available to him, which would be valued at $176.2 million, or he signs a two-year deal with a player option for the second season. Once he opts out in the 2022 offseason, he can then sign the five-year max with bird rights. That deal would be valued at $235 million, to date the richest contract in NBA history, per Bobby Marks of ESPN.
Whatever contract Leonard signs with the Clippers is fine. The team simply needs him back; if not, this offseason will take a drastic turn.