We’re just a few days into NBA free agency, but things have slowed to a near-standstill as the league awaits the decision of Kawhi Leonard on where he will be signing.
Word is that he’s taking his time but there are three teams left in the running to land the incumbent Finals MVP, the Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers.
The Raptors can obviously offer him the most money and have the manpower in place to win an NBA championship, because, well, they just did. He was the main reason that Toronto was able to win its first ever NBA title.
Leonard, who is a California native, expressed in the past that he’s wanted to play in and for his hometown and that’s where the Los Angeles franchises come in.
The Lakers have LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the cap room to sign Leonard to a Max deal. The Clippers originally had the hopes of pairing Leonard with Jimmy Butler. However, Butler ended taking his talents to South Beach and is now with the Miami Heat via a sign-and-trade deal. Even with that plan now down the drain, the Clippers are still holding out as a potential landing spot for the superstar, especially since he’s named them as a preferred destination in the past.
At this point, both the Lakers and Raptors via various sources believe they’re the frontrunners to land Kawhi.
Until such time that Leonard finally comes to a decision, all three teams are in limbo as they preserve salary cap space. Aside from that, many restricted and unrestricted free agents are caught in a looped flight pattern and are dominoes waiting to fall into place – and signed to long-term deals.
The Raptors fan base have been nothing but respectful and classy in giving Leonard his space, save for the occasional big-time pitches.
Plans are on hold, personnel decisions remain pending on some whiteboard in the teams’ war rooms. The Raptors will have a lot of rebuilding to do should Leonard just leave as the void he’ll leave behind obviously cannot be filled just by any one or two other free agents. That is how good Leonard is as a basketball player. They could somehow get lucky and do a sign-and-trade and get assets back in return but all options are up in the air.
For now, we wait. The NBA waits. These teams wait. The good news is that Leonard is not really much of a character who has a flair for the dramatic or drama in general. He’s known around the league as one of the most down to earth, humble and laid back guys, so we don’t expect him to draw this situation out for much longer. Until then, everyone will be waiting on bated breath for his decision.