The Los Angeles Clippers cannot survive another second-round playoff exit. Last season, the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets. If that happens again, there would be a lot of uncertainty around the team that the Clippers can’t contend for an NBA championship.
Both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have player options in 2021. While many believe that George will pick up his option, the word around the NBA is that teams are not entirely certain that Leonard will pick up his.
If Leonard chooses to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021, he would be the No. 1 ranked free agent on the market. With that said, these five teams would be his top suitors.
5. Dallas Mavericks
No offense to Tim Hardaway Jr. or Josh Richardson, but wouldn’t you rather have Leonard at shooting guard or small forward too? The idea of formulating a “Big 3” of Leonard, Luka Doncic, and Kristaps Porzingis is mouthwatering to a fan. Imagine Doncic bringing up the floor, penetrating the gap, and finding either Leonard or Porzingis for an open shot outside.
Maybe, Leonard reverses the ball and drives to the rim and pulls up for a mid-range jumper, or lops a ball to Porzingis who hammers it down. The Mavericks would have three legit No. 1 options on their team. If the game required a game-winner, choosing the right shooter would be incredibly hard. Not to mention, the Dallas market would allow Leonard to remain his calm, cool self. Doncic and owner Mark Cuban are great media personalities. All in all, this would be a great fit for all parts involved.
4. Toronto Raptors
What if Leonard took the one-year deal route? LeBron James made it a habit of playing on a two-year contract where one season was a player option. All the power would be up to Leonard. Leonard won an NBA championship with the Raptors in 2019. The championship window is starting to tighten up in Toronto. Leonard could try and win a title right away next season with the team.
Kyle Lowry could be brought back on a one-year contract so that the team could also afford Pascal Siakm on a max deal. The core of Leonard, Lowry, Siaka, and Fred VanVleet would be an automatic contender in the Eastern Conference.
3. Golden State Warriors
This would require the Warriors to dump Andrew Wiggins and his salary, along with draft compensation, for this to work. There are many positive variables to Leonard joining the Warriors. For starters, who doesn’t want to play with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson? Along with Draymond Green, this would have a feel to the teams of when Kevin Durant played. Those teams made three straight NBA Finals and won two titles.
Leonard also wouldn’t have to be the face of the franchise. Curry and Thompson have been long labeled as the “Splash Bros.” Offensively and defensively, the Warriors would grow and Leonard could easily sign for fewer years so that he could title chase after two seasons.
2. Miami Heat
Everything about the Heat screams Kawhi Leonard. The Heat have a system that would benefit him. The team believes in team defense. The culture and chemistry are at a championship level, similar to his days with the Toronto Raptors. Imagine having Jimmy Butler and Leonard on your team. Perfection would be the minimum requirement of play.
Butler, Leonard, and Bam Adebayo could be the kings of the Eastern Conference. Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley are two of the best in the game. Leonard would know right away that this team could contend each season. Even without Leonard, the Heat have proved they are one of the best teams in the league after qualifying for the NBA Finals in 2020.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
Leonard had a chance to join LeBron James before last season but opted to convince the Los Angeles Clippers to destroy their future by shipping numerous first-round picks so he could play with Paul George. The real slap to the face of the Clippers would be to leave for their arch-rivals in Los Angeles.
However, if the Lakers don’t give Dennis Schroder loads of money, the team could afford James, Leonard, and Anthony Davis. Realistically, James does not have too many seasons left. He will be 36 years old in 2021. The trio could win one NBA title together and then the Lakers would still contend even if James was gone A dynamic duo of Leonard and Davis could be enough to win a title on their own.