In an unsurprising unfolding of events, Yahoo! Sports Chris Haynes reported that Kawhi Leonard will decline his 2019-20 player option worth $21.3 million to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The 3x All-Star played off the final season of his contract averaging 26.6 points per game while leading Toronto to their first ever NBA Championship. A lot will factor into his decision, but his recent success with the Raptors may have put them over the edge. According to Haynes, they are the favorites to sign Kawhi.
The appeal of returning home to Southern California is enticing to the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but with the trust the Raptors built while Leonard led the franchise to its first NBA title by upsetting the Golden State Warriors, rival executives view his current team as the favorite to land him when the free-agent negotiating period begins June 30, sources said.
Kawhi’s injury struggles have been well documented, and those injury concerns are the reason why he left San Antonio. They pushed and pressured him to return when he claims he just was not ready.
The Raptors used this knowledge to take extra care of Leonard’s body this season, giving him days off for “load management” and not putting unnecessary pressure on him to re-sign with the team.
The Clippers, Lakers, Nets, and Sixers are also in contention to sign the 27-year-old, 2x Defensive Player of the Year.