Although the Toronto Raptors' gamble last summer for superstar Kawhi Leonard resulted in an NBA championship, two of their Atlantic Division rivals believed his desire to eventually sign with the Los Angeles Clippers was simply too great to risk mortgaging their futures for him.
"The informed belief that Leonard had every intention of signing in Los Angeles in 2019 was the determining factor for both the (Philadelphia) 76ers and Boston Celtics in not accepting more robust proposals by the San Antonio Spurs for Leonard last summer," writes ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz, according to team sources close to each negotiation.
The Clippers have long been linked with the Southern California native and reportedly sent team officials to many of the Raptors' home games this past season. However, after leading the Raptors to their first-ever NBA title, the 27-year-old may have had a change in heart.
Leonard will reportedly decline his player option for the 2019-20 season and become an unrestricted free agent, but he's said to be seriously considering re-signing with the Raptors.
The three-time All-Star averaged a career-high 26.6 points per contest on 49.6 percent shooting from the floor across 60 regular-season appearances. Leonard further elevated his game during the postseason, during which he averaged 30.5 points, 9.1 boards, 3.9 assists, and 1.7 steals per contest en route to earning a near-unanimous Finals MVP award.
Toronto can offer Leonard a five-year, $190-million max contract, whereas the Clippers could table a maximum offer of four years and $141 million.