This year’s NBA free agency period has been one for the ages as many teams took one step closer to competing for a championship. While most of the big-name free agents are off of the board, one name that remains is that of Kawhi Leonard. The 30-year-old two-time NBA Finals MVP declined his $36 million player option over the weekend, meaning that he is no longer a Los Angeles Clipper at the moment. Even with that being the case, the belief is that Leonard is going to return to the Clippers despite the fact he’s also listening to offers from other teams.
At the same time, a wise man once said that everybody’s got a price. Even if Kawhi Leonard loves playing in Los Angeles, he’s coming off of a partially torn ACL and could choose to go wherever pays him the most or offers him the best chance to win another championship. If Leonard decides to leave, the favored destination is the New York Knicks (+200), according to BetOnline.
According to Spotrac, the Knicks have $50.7 million in practical cap space — more than enough money to pay a player of Leonard’s caliber. New York has brought in Evan Fournier via free agency and he can run the small forward position, however, it’s not hard to imagine how Leonard would be an upgrade over him. Besides, the latter has racked up a lot more accolades and could help the Knicks become an Eastern Conference contender. New York is also a big city, which could satisfy his lifestyle for the next few years. On paper, joining the Knicks seems random because Leonard wanted to return to his hometown of Los Angeles for a reason, but never say never in the basketball world.
Kawhi Leonard Free Agency Destination if not the Clippers
Odds via BetOnline as of Wednesday, August 4
- New York Knicks (+200)
- Dallas Mavericks (+250)
- Golden State Warriors (+300)
- Phoenix Suns (+350)
- Toronto Raptors (+400)
- Charlotte Hornets (+500)
- Philadelphia 76ers (+600)
- Washington Wizards (+1200)
Will Leonard Finally Join the Mavericks?
Back when Kawhi Leonard hit free agency following the 2018-19 NBA season, the Dallas Mavericks were one of the teams trying to sign him right before it was announced that he was a Clipper. Now, the Mavericks have +250 odds to sign him again.
Dallas has $30 million in maximum possible salary cap space, according to Spotrac. Obviously, the team can’t spend as much as the Knicks, but the room is there to bring Leonard in. Whether it’s by making more cap space or pulling off a sign-and-trade, the potential is there to make something happen. Besides, joining the Mavericks would allow Leonard to play with Luka Doncic, who’ll no doubt be a superstar in the league for years to come. Playing with him would also allow the veteran to have less pressure on his shoulders as it’s Doncic’s team. If Leonard is okay with that “lesser” role and thinks that the Mavericks have a better shot at winning an NBA Championship than the Clippers, a deal isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Kawhi Leonard Warriors Odds
At +300 odds, the Golden State Warriors have the third-best shot at landing Kawhi Leonard if he doesn’t return to Los Angeles. Considering their cap situation, the Warriors would certainly need to sign-and-trade for Leonard, which would likely involve sending one of Andrew Wiggins or Draymond Green back in the deal to match salaries.
But let’s say that Leonard does join Golden State. That would instantly give them one of the top teams in the league, especially assuming that Klay Thompson returns to full health following his injury woes. Leonard would also be the best small forward that the team’s had in years, plus he can obviously defend and shoot the ball without any issues. There’s also the fact that he’d get to stay in California, relatively close to his hometown compare to other potential destinations.
The only question is whether or not Leonard would be okay with Stephen Curry being the face of the franchise. If he can accept that and thinks that the Warriors offer him the best shot at success, there’s nothing that can’t be overcome.