[brid autoplay=”true” video=”821016″ player=”23231″ title=”Will%20Kawhi%20Leonard%20opt%20out%20and%20leave%20the%20Clippers%20for%20the%20Heat%20or%20the%20Mavericks” duration=”70″ description=”Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix explains why the Los Angeles Clippers have a long offseason ahead of them because of star forward Kawhi Leonard.” uploaddate=”2021-07-07″ thumbnailurl=”//cdn.brid.tv/live/partners/17660/thumb/821016_t_1625602482.png” contentUrl=”//cdn.brid.tv/live/partners/17660/sd/821016.mp4″]
The NBA offseason was thrown for a loop after news broke that Kawhi Leonard was having surgery to repair his partially torn ACL. One of the teams most affected by the news is the Dallas Mavericks. Earlier this month, it was reported the Mavericks were one of teams making a play at Kawhi.
Leonard’s injury makes him a less enticing prospect, but Dallas should still be interested in pairing him with Luka Doncic. If the Los Angeles Clippers don’t retain him, the Dallas Mavericks are favorites to land the two-time NBA Finals MVP.
The Dallas Mavericks have multiple avenues to acquire Kawhi Leonard
Most teams have some interest in Kawhi Leonard, but Dallas is the only team that can realistically acquire Leonard in multiple ways. The Mavericks have multiple expiring contracts, including JJ Redick and Tim Hardaway, Jr.
If Josh Richardson declines his player option, Dallas will have enough cap space to sign Leonard to a max contract. Even if Richardson takes his player option, the Mavs can easily trade him or others to create space.
In the event Leonard doesn’t want to leave the Clippers with nothing, Dallas has enough assets for a sign-and-trade deal. Los Angeles has no negotiating power, so a deal centered around Richardson, Maxi Kleber, and second-round picks might be enough.
More interestingly, the Clippers may be interested in a straight swap for Kristaps Porzingis. Leonard is most likely out for the rest of the season and the Clippers have little cap flexibility, so Porzingis might be their best option to win next season.
As bad as Leonard’s injury is in the short term, it may help Dallas acquire a superstar while getting off a bad contract.
Luka Doncic would be Kawhi Leonard’s best teammate ever
When Leonard comes back from his ACL surgery, he can’t be expected to shoulder the offensive burden the Clippers have expected from him. Leonard averaged 32.1 points per game and guarded Doncic in the first round of the playoffs. By the end of the series, Leonard’s fatigue was obvious, which may have played a part in his injury.
If Leonard signs with Dallas, Doncic would still be the number one option on offense. Leonard would no longer be expected to score 30 every game or handle the ball on every possession. After nearly a decade of long playoff runs with the San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, and the Clippers, Leonard would welcome the new role.
Paul George is a good player, but he’s not close to Doncic’s level. Comparing the rosters, Leonard has a better chance to win with Doncic in Dallas than he does staying in Los Angeles.
Kawhi Leonard has a strong relationship with new GM Nico Harrison
Mark Cuban hired Nico Harrison as Dallas’ new general manager for one reason — to sign marquee free agents. Kawhi Leonard’s free agency will be his first test.
Harrison, a former Nike executive, has built strong connections with the NBA’s biggest stars. Before Leonard signed a shoe deal for New Balance, he spent years at Nike where he worked closely with Harrison. Leonard famously has a small inner circle. Anyone with a prior relationship with Leonard will have a big advantage in signing him.
Dallas is in win now mode, but signing a huge free agent — even an injured one — is too enticing for Cuban to pass up.
Doncic and Leonard would go into the 2022-23 season as one of the favorites, especially as teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets get one year older. Leonard is one of the more difficult to predict NBA players, but Dallas seems to have a great shot at finally signing a star player.