Storyline: Kawhi Leonard Free Agency

48 rumors in this storyline

As has been well-documented, the task for Toronto in the coming year is to persuade Leonard to stay in a place and perform for a team for which he had no desire to play just a few short weeks ago. It’s a tall order, and if the Raptors can do it, the massive gamble they took this month will have paid off. Most around the league still expect that Leonard will look to return home to Southern California, either to join LeBron James with the Lakers or bring his star power to the Clippers.

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I don’t think so. Marks is his own man and his staff has its own tale to tell Leonard and his representatives. The Philadelphia 76ers, for example, had a good shot at Leonard in part because of Leonard’s relationship with Sixers coach Brett Brown — a relationship that was formed while Brown was an assistant in San Antonio. Unless Marks rubbed Leonard the wrong way somehow in the 210, and there’s absolutely no evidence I know of indicating that, I think Leonard will give the Nets a fair hearing next July.

The Raptors certainly want to try and convince Leonard to stay, and they have a story to tell — about their team, their organization, and their city/country that is unique among NBA franchises. Maybe Leonard and Kyle Lowry hit it off off the floor the way Lowry and DeMar DeRozan did. Maybe Toronto’s legendary Director of Sports Science, Alex McKechnie — who has worked wonders with NBA players for two-plus decades — gets in front of him and finds something that works to rapidly improve Leonard’s quad.

So Leonard will zip up his parka, play an obligatory season with the Raptors, respectfully decline their offer for a long-term supermax contract and bid adieu to the Great White North next summer … just as the Lakers, who conspicuously have been signing free agents to one-year contracts, clear salary cap space for him to join LeBron James. Right? That’s the off-the-rack take. Here’s what someone who knows Leonard as well as anybody told me privately: “He’s going to fall in love with Toronto – it’s going to happen. He’s not going to leave, I’m telling you.”

MARC STEIN: But I did hear enough chatter in various Vegas conversations to believe that the Raptors have given legit consideration to gambling on a trade for Leonard, with three obvious problems to contend with: 1) Leonard can leave in free agency at season’s end, even if the Raptors are fortunate enough to trade for him. 2) Leonard’s camp has given no indication to any interested team that he plans to sign anywhere but Los Angeles (with either the Lakers or the Clippers) in July 2019. 3) Leonard’s readiness for next season, thanks to the quadriceps injury that limited him to nine games last season, has to concern teams in Toronto’s position as much as the idea of trading for him and losing him months later.
1 month ago via ESPN

2 months ago via ESPN

Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said Thursday night that the franchise’s desire is to keep disgruntled All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard in the fold but that the club “will explore all of our options.” Among the issues Leonard has had with the Spurs is his frustration with the team’s handling of a quadriceps injury that kept him out of action for all but nine games this past season. Leonard wants to be traded to Los Angeles, preferably to the Lakers, sources have told ESPN.

According to Robinson, Kawhi has to take responsibility and step up as a leader of the franchise if he wants to be viewed on the same level as LeBron James. “If you want to be a top two or three player in the league, you’ve got to be a leader. LeBron doesn’t sit around waiting for people to talk for him. LeBron gets out there and says ‘hey, this is my team, this is what’s happening.’ And I think that’s where Kawhi is. He’s meant so much for our franchise. We love him, we all want him to be there next year. But we want him to be there and take control.”
2 months ago via ESPN

Sixers, Lakers interested in trading for Kawhi Leonard

The Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers have interest in Leonard, each with a differing array of young assets to trade for him now and the potential of salary-cap space to sign Leonard outright in 2019. In the end, Leonard could dictate his destination based on his willingness to sign long term upon a trade. Oklahoma City acquired All-Star forward Paul George last summer without a commitment, and there will undoubtedly be a few teams with a similarly adventurous spirit in pursuit of Leonard.
6 months ago via ESPN

Lakers standing pat at trade deadline?

As the Los Angeles Lakers become more realistic about the franchise’s chances of snaring superstars in the free agent class of 2018, the front office is increasingly looking through a longer lens in its team building process, league sources told ESPN. The Lakers aren’t abandoning a summer pursuit of stars, but rather recalibrating on the possibility of a 2019 class that could include San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, Golden State’s Klay Thompson and Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, league sources told ESPN.
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August 15, 2018 | 2:11 pm EDT Update