By Armen Shrikian, writer at BushLeagueSports
Kawhi Leonard is the best free agent on the market. He is an elite scorer that is not afraid to take over a game when need be while playing elite defense to help a team on both sides of the ball. While not a pure shooter like Kevin Durant or having the handles of a Kyrie Irving, Leonard’s no-nonsense approach to basketball makes him a player every franchise desires to have on their roster.
Leonard’s personality is basketball first, nothing else second. He is a machine, but now the machine is free to choose to play with any team of his liking. Not knowing Leonard’s mindset and a whirlwind of false reports not helping, three teams remain in constant speculation as to whom Leonard may favor playing with next season.
The Toronto Raptors have done absolutely everything in their power to convince Kawhi Leonard to resign with the franchise — and it just might work. The Raptors can offer Leonard a five-year contract worth $190 million, which is $49 million more than any other team can offer.
After leading the Raptors to their first NBA Finals championship in franchise history, the “King of the North” has already cemented himself as the best player to ever play north of the border. Leonard is the face of the franchise in the NBA’s fourth largest media market behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Masai Ujuiri, the general manager of the Raptors, has proven that he is not afraid to make blockbuster transactions and with Leonard staying, Ujiri will certainly continue to look to improve the roster until he delivers the city of Toronto their first title.
Los Angeles Clippers:
The Clippers have been rumored to be the favorite to land Kawhi for months now, and it’s no secret that strong mutual interest between the two parties. The Clippers have the richest owner in American sports, and Jerry West has agreed to remain involved in the front office as a special consultant.
Los Angeles is the second-largest media market in the NBA, and although the Clippers may not be the most popular team in town, they are the better team. The Clippers have a deep backcourt with their trio of young guards including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Landry Shamet, and Jerome Robinson who play alongside veterans Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley and Danilo Gallinari. The Clippers will be able to surround Leonard with skilled playmakers and reliable secondary scoring options.
This is not including previous reports stating Leonard wants to return home where he has already purchased a multi-million dollar mansion.
Los Angeles Lakers:
Despite being in a controversial front office and ownership situation, the Lakers could become an instant contender with the addition of Kawhi Leonard. But does he want to be a Laker? That appears to be unlikely after the Lakers embarrassing season and Leonard’s preference to focus solely on basketball. That is just not an option as a Laker.
It feels uncharacteristic of Leonard to want to deal with the constant media attention surrounding the Lakers. Although playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis would allow Leonard to exert less energy on the offensive side of the ball, there has been no indication that he is interested in playing alongside the former MVP and elite big man.
The Lakers are currently a dysfunctional franchise, as ESPN’s Baxter Holmes reveals in “Lakers 2.0: The failed reboot of the NBA’s crown jewel.” An organization filled with backstabbing, overarching agents, little chemistry on the court and an inconsistent owner does not seem like a place Leonard would call home.
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