Kawhi Leonard will decline his $21.3 million player option to become an unrestricted free agent, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.
That part was expected. Kawhi’s due for a big raise.
What everyone’s less sure of is where the NBA Finals MVP will land.
Kawhi has long been thought to want to return to southern California, where he’s from – most likely with the Los Angeles Clippers. But Yahoo Sports’ latest report should give Toronto Raptors fans hope.
- Raptors coach Nick Nurse performs during sold-out Arkells concert (VIDEOS)
- History made with 6 Canadians selected in 2019 NBA Draft
- What you need to know about Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors, and free agency
- Kawhi Leonard gets a hero's welcome at the Blue Jays game (VIDEO)
- Trump on Raptors White House visit: 'We'll think about that'
Though a “handful of teams” could secure a meeting with Leonard when the free agent negotiating period opens on June 30, rival executives reportedly see the Raptors as the “favourite” to re-sign Leonard.
Oddsmakers agree, listing the Raptors as betting favourites (-225 according to Odds Shark) to re-sign him. Other teams in the running include the Clippers (+175), Lakers (+800), Knicks (+1400), and Nets (+1600).
Updated odds for what team Kawhi Leonard will be on the first game of the 2019-2020 NBA season:
— Odds Shark (@OddsShark) June 24, 2019
What a difference a year makes, as it was back in July that Haynes reported Leonard had “no desire to play in Toronto.”
The Raptors are the only team that can offer a $190 million max contract to the superstar, spread out over five years.
But Kawhi’s comfort with the Raptors likely extends beyond the amount of money they can offer him.
After trust issues with the San Antonio Spurs’ medical staff strained his relationship with his former team, everything went according to plan in Kawhi’s first season with the Raptors. The team trusted their superstar, allowing him to rest through ‘load management.’ Kawhi repaid that trust by being the best player in the NBA playoffs. That, along with a strong supporting cast, led the Raptors to a surprise championship.
In short, it couldn’t have gone any better for Kawhi in Toronto.