When Kawhi Leonard was traded from the San Antonio Spurs to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan last summer, he was under the impression that this was a one-and-done type of situation.
Even after leading the Raptors to their first NBA championship after taking down the Golden State Warriors dynasty Thursday night, that idea seems to remain.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on SportsCenter on Friday morning that Leonard, who can opt-out of his contract and become a free agent this offseason, is still leaning towards signing with the L.A. Clippers this summer and that the Raptors “still have a lot of work to do.”
“He came to Toronto, with the idea from San Antonio, this was a very fine one year way station and I’m sure exceeded his expectations how they managed him physically to be a Finals MVP again, to win a championship,” Wojnarowski said, as transcribed by Bleacher Report.
“But there was always the risk of him going back west. The L.A. Clippers are at the very top of that list, and I think the Raptors still have work to do between now and June 30 and the start of free agency to keep Kawhi Leonard in Toronto.”
The move wouldn’t necessarily be a surprise to the Raptors organization, who knew the risk they were running when they acquired him, but it goes without saying they’d be disappointed to lose arguably the best player on the planet.
Losing Leonard, who averaged 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals in 24 postseason games en route to Toronto’s first-ever NBA title, would be a big blow to the Raptors for their title defense next season, even as other core players like Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet are all returning. Danny Green is an unrestricted free agent.
If Leonard moves back to the Western Conference, he’ll become another star in a Western Conference, especially in California, that already has Stephen Curry and the Warriors and LeBron with the Lakers.