Now that Kawhi Leonard has been traded to the Toronto Raptors, just about everyone’s focus has turned to his impending free agency just about a year from now. As one would expect, that’s where his focus appears to be, as well, as reported by Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star during an appearance on the “Back to Back Podcast.”
While discussing ways Toronto could ensure Leonard might stick around beyond this season, Arthur had this to say:
“One thing I was told last night is that Kawhi Leonard has already been planning out his free agency for next year and he’s already been in contact with other star players in the league, saying, ‘hey, where might you want to play with me? What are we looking at?’
And it wasn’t just L.A. he was talking about. Brooklyn was maybe somewhere that’ll have a ton of cap space. That’s a possibility.”
To be clear, the context of this was while they were discussing Toronto’s options moving forward and the possibilities that they could surround Leonard with another superstar to keep him up north rather than trading away franchise favorite DeMar DeRozan for a one-year rental.
This can be taken a couple of ways, though.
Fans of the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers (or Clippers, for that matter) are going to take this as an improvement of the odds that Leonard departs Toronto and teams up with another star or two to return to championship contention.
Raptors fans (and this was the context of the conversation) are going to start going down the list of stars they could acquire before Kawhi hits free agency so as to convince him to commit long-term next summer.
Neither reading of the report is wrong, per se, but this does shed some light into the perpetually ambiguous desires of Kawhi Leonard. We know about his thoroughly reported inclination to return to Southern California. We also can assume he’ll want to contend for championships no matter where he winds up.
This is the starting point for the Lakers, Clippers, Nets, Raptors or whoever wants to acquire Leonard next summer. Fortunately for the Lakers, they have the head start of being in L.A., with a player of LeBron James’ stature already on the roster and the flexibility to land a third star if that’s what James and, in this hypothetical, Kawhi prefer.
While Leonard isn’t a Laker and most would prefer that to be the case right now, the Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office is sitting in a pretty good spot right now.