Fresh off celebrating the Toronto Raptors’ first ever NBA championship, reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard has a decision to make.
Leonard is slated to become a free agent next month. And while a return to Canada has always seemed to make the most sense, there are other options out there.
Can Toronto compare to the bright lights of Los Angeles and New York City? Does Leonard want to return to his California roots?
So many questions surround the consensus top free agent mere weeks before the market opens.
Here’s a look at the five best potential landing spots for Leonard in free agency.
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles had in the past been considered odds-on favorites to land Leonard in free agency. The idea is rather simple. He could return to his Southern California roots and star for an up-and-coming team in the nation’s second-largest media market.
The Clippers’ mentality heading into free agency is one that includes them targeting top-end free agents. They are not looking at second-tier options. With the injury to Kevin Durant, it has seemingly become clear that Leonard is the team’s top target. It’s going to take some convincing, but the Clippers remain a top target of star free agents.
Would Leonard seriously consider moving on from the Raptors after being the toast of the city of Toronto and the entire country of Canada? It seems to be a match made in heaven. Leonard’s personality fits in well up north. In turn, Toronto could continue to dominate with the likes of Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet.
The interesting thing here is that Leonard has not given as much as a hint of what he’s thinking. He has obviously stopped short of guaranteeing a return to Toronto. But in the grand scheme of things, this always seemed to be the best long-term fit for the two-time NBA Finals MVP. Whether that comes to fruition remains to be seen.
The Nets remain an intriguing option for several top-end free agents. They are already odds-on favorites to land Kyrie Irving once the calendar flips to July. An up-and-coming team, Brooklyn also has the ability to add a second max-contract player outside of Irving.
Linked in the past to Durant, it seems that Leonard makes more sense. Brooklyn would have to renounce restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell and make a plethora of other cap moves for an Irving-Leonard pairing to work. It does, however, remain a strong possibility.
Let’s go with a true wild card here. Now that Harrison Barnes has declined his $25.1 million player option for next season, Sacramento has room to add a max-contract player. It is also coming off the best season for this long-downtrodden organization since all the way back in 2005-06.
The idea here would be to team Leonard up with youngsters De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III. That would create a sure fire top-four team out west. Stranger things have happened.
With Al Horford having decided to opt out of his $30-plus million option for next season, Boston has an ability to add a max-contract player. And unlike trade talks surrounding Anthony Davis, signing Leonard would not take a bite into the young core GM Danny Ainge has built.
Let’s say for a second that Kyrie Irving does depart in free agency. Adding Leonard to the mix to go with Jayson Tatum would create a tremendous one-two punch in Boston. In turn, Ainge could use Jaylen Brown and the Celtics’ plethora of draft assets to find a top-end point guard to replace Irving. It’s an offseason that will define the Celtics future. Adding Leonard would dramatically change the trajectory of this organization.