Kawhi Leonard has opted out of his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, making himself an unrestricted free agent. Where could he go if he leaves the Clippers?
Kawhi Leonard has opted out of the final years of his contract, pushing himself into unrestricted free agency. This is not an entirely unexpected move, allowing him to get a longer contract locked in before he advances another season through his prime. The expectation is that he will re-sign with the Clippers, but Chris Haynes has also reported that he’s listening to other offers.
Where could Kawhi Leonard go if he leaves the Clippers?
Presumably, Kawhi is not taking a discount and is not interested in muddling through with a team that’s not a contender, which significantly narrows the options. The New York Knicks have the cap space to make him a max offer but that would entail switching coasts again for a team that would appear to be much farther from winning a title. The Dallas Mavericks could theoretically clear space to get themselves in the mix as well but, while playing with Luka Doncic could be enticing, the Clippers again look like a much safer championship bet for Kawhi.
Theoretically, the Blazers could engage in some sort of sign-and-trade around Damian Lillard but that probably solves more problems for Portland than Los Angeles and it’s not clear whether Kawhi would be interested.
All this is to say, Kawhi is likely ending up back with the Clippers. They can offer him an extra year beyond what any team can offer and they probably give him the best chance of adding another championship. Fans of other teams can certainly dream but it probably makes sense not to get your hopes up too much. Expect Kawhi to be working on getting healthy and running it back with Paul George next season.