With the Los Angeles Clippers staring down a potentially catastrophic first round embarrassment against the Dallas Mavericks, talk has turned to what a potential loss may mean for the franchise’s future.
Kawhi Leonard, who is currently making $34.38 million this season, has a player option with the Clippers next year for $36.02 million. Popular wisdom up to this point has been that he will remain in LA long-term.
Of course, that was predicated on the notion that the Clippers would be successful with him and Paul George at the helm. Should they flame out early in the playoffs for a second straight year – suddenly all of that goes out the window.
And if an opening suddenly emerges for a different team to swoop in and steal Leonard, there is one clear frontrunner.
According to ESPN NBA insider Stephen A. Smith, the Miami Heat are a team to watch.
— Heat 3x (@DadeTeflonDon) May 25, 2021
“Kawhi Leonard might come there because, undercover wise, his relationship with Jimmy Butler is pretty damn good,” Smith said.
This isn’t the first time Miami has been mentioned as a viable alternative to the Clippers, should Leonard want to leave LA.
Earlier this year, an NBA agent also described the Heat as a legitimate potential suitor.
“Kawhi (Leonard) could very well listen to pitches from other teams,” the agent said. “That is something that he is considering. If that does end up being the case, he would be intrigued at the possibility of joining the Miami Heat. Joining forces with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo is something that he would absolutely have interest in.”
That’s one way to get over a loss. https://t.co/17jpFpu2Ej
— Game 7 (@game7__) May 23, 2021
Obviously if the Clippers come back and beat the Mavericks to escape the first round – this conversation is moot. Leonard will remain in Los Angeles and everyone will move forward like nothing ever happened. However, with how strong Dallas looks right now, and given that Luka Doncic is literally taunting Leonard and the Clippers at this point, it’s hard to see that happening.
When and if the Clippers suffer another humiliating defeat in the playoffs this year, it will be very interesting to see what that means for Leonard’s future going forward.