It didn’t take long after the conclusion of the Los Angeles Clippers’ season for rumors of a Kawhi Leonard exit to begin swirling.
The superstar forward didn’t even play against the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals after suffering a knee injury the previous round. That the Clippers made it so far without their best player seemingly would entice Leonard, who can exercise a player option this offseason, to re-sign with Los Angeles.
But don’t be surprised of Leonard lands elsewhere.
Check out this excerpt from a column published Thursday by Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:
The Mavericks and Heat plan to make a hard push to acquire Leonard, league sources say. The Knicks will also pursue any superstar that becomes available, and a long list of other suitors would at least make an attempt if he hits the market. Who wouldn’t want a 30-year-old two-time Finals MVP still performing at an All-NBA level?
Dallas is considered by some executives to be the most serious threat to land Kawhi because of Luka Doncic’s presence and the front office’s ability to create maximum cap space or work out a sign-and-trade. During Leonard’s years with Nike, he also developed a good relationship with Nico Harrison, the Mavs’ new general manager and a former longtime executive at the company.
Leonard tried to recruit Jimmy Butler to the Clippers before George was acquired, so Miami could offer Kawhi an enticing chance to play with him. Though the Heat can?t create max cap space, they could always work out a sign-and-trade just like they did to acquire Butler from the Sixers in 2019.
Say what you will about Leonard’s load management and recent injury history, but he remains one of the very best players in the NBA.
In 52 games last season, he averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game while earning NBA All-Defensive Second Team honors.
By the way: Leonard stands to make more money if he opts into contract and signs an extension.