This is shaping up to be a very eventful offseason for Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard.
In front of him are two options: utilizing his $36 million player option for 2021-22 and then seeing what the future holds after that, or opting out and becoming a free agent this summer.
Complicating matters somewhat is the fact Leonard underwent surgery on a partially torn ACL in his right knee just a couple of weeks ago and is out indefinitely. Despite that, he still seems to want big money and a long-term deal.
Normally, a situation like this would be fairly open-and-shut. The Clippers would re-sign Leonard to the most amount of money imaginable, he’d accept, and all parties would move on. Unfortunately, Leonard’s relationship with the team has been growing increasingly strained. It reached a boiling point when he needed to have his big surgery.
So could Leonard ultimately opt to leave LA this offseason?
As noted by NBA insider Marc Stein, the Dallas Mavericks are a team to watch in the Kawhi Leonard Sweepstakes.
“Dallas, just to name one expected suitor, will not be dissuaded from pursuing Leonard even if he’s forced to miss all of next season,” he wrote.
“Leonard’s situation is frequently likened to Kevin Durant’s free agency in 2019 after Durant had sustained a torn Achilles tendon in the Finals. Brooklyn furnished Durant with a four-year, $164 million deal as part of a sign-and-trade with Golden State, with the Nets knowing they would have to play a whole season without him. Even at 30 and with a worrisome injury history, Leonard appears capable of generating similar interest.”
— Game 7 (@game7__) July 17, 2021
This is not the first time Dallas’ name has come up in relation to stealing Leonard from the Clippers.
If the Mavericks ultimately can’t get the job done, one other team waits in the wings to sign him.
All in all, this shaping up to be an interesting few months. What happens with Leonard and the Clippers this offseason will ultimately alter the fates of multiple franchises around the league for many years to come.