When the San Antonio Spurs traded Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors, this was initially thought to be a win for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Leonard, who quickly became disgruntled with the Spurs, was reportedly determined to play in his hometown of Los Angeles for the Lakers.
However, that thought has seemed to become far-fetched as the 27-year-old is reportedly looking to play for the Los Angeles Clippers instead of the Lakers. The Clippers have emerged as a legitimate destination given their early success and cap space.
It appears Leonard is still focused on heading home but seems increasingly interested in playing for the Clippers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN as transcribed by RealGM:
“They can’t change the geography. They can’t change the weather in Toronto. Those were always be things against them in this,” said Adrian Wojnarowski. “Home and L.A. has been the focus for Kawhi Leonard through all of this.”
The addition of LeBron James seems to be playing a factor in Leonard’s thinking as it has been reported that upcoming free agents are hesitant to be his second star. The Clippers offer Leonard the chance to be the face of a franchise and the same opportunity to return home.
However, the Raptors also have a strong case to retain Leonard as they can offer him more money with an extra year on a max contract plus the chance to be a perennial threat to get to the NBA Finals in a weaker Eastern Conference. They are currently first in their conference and it will be difficult for Leonard to look past how successful he and his new team have been together.
Still, anything can happen between now and free agency for president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka. Even if Leonard ends up choosing somewhere else to play, the Lakers will still have other options to pursue when the time comes.