Raptors News

Report: Kawhi Leonard to sign contract with Los Angeles Clippers

The writing has been on the wall since the day Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors. It was reported when he was traded that he didn’t want to be here, that he wouldn’t suit up for Toronto, and that there wasn’t a chance he would re-sign. All of that was nonsense, and it was clear that the Raptors and Kawhi Leonard were a match made in heaven. But like many heavenly matches, this one was doomed to end.

The rumours have been swirling all year, since before the Raptors even won the championship, but all the fake insiders and talking heads have been proven correct. Kawhi Leonard will sign a contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, and he will no longer be a Raptor going forward. It seems Leonard values living in his home state of California, and his proximity to his family, over the advantages inherent to playing for the Toronto Raptors. That’s absolutely his right. Kawhi Leonard is first and foremost a human being, and it is inappropriate for fans or media members to pretend to diagnose his inner wants and desires. We should respect his choice. But that’s not all…

Leonard decided that the Clippers gave him the best opportunity at success among the teams in Los Angeles, and therefore the Clippers will be his future employers. It was clear that he appreciated the stability of their organization rather than the circus of Lakerland, if that makes the pill a little easier to swallow. Though Toronto will miss Leonard, he gave us something that no other human ever has, and Leonard will be enshrined in Toronto mythology as a result. That remains true even as he will no longer be a Raptor.

Leonard will forever be enshrined in murals and memories, in Open Gym episodes and episodes of in-game dominance. He will be enshrined for the shot. You can read more about the specifics of Leonard’s season and heroics here, but for now, suffice it to say that Leonard may be gone, but Toronto will always have this season. Leonard will always be a Raptor.

That being said, this still hurts. With Leonard, Toronto would have been a favourite to win another championship next year. Without Leonard, Toronto won’t even be a favourite within their own division. It is frustrating to lose the best and most talented Raptor to ever wear the jersey, especially when Toronto offered the ideal marriage of basketball success, medical trust, and respect for Leonard as an individual. It stings even more for Leonard to leave Toronto for the Clippers in such dramatic fashion, swiftly changing the landscape of the league overnight.

Going forward, the Raptors still have as bright a future as any in the league. The core of Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, and Marc Gasol will be dangerous in the 2019-20 season, and the Raptors should still absolutely be considered a playoff threat. They may not have the upside of a Leonard-led team, but the Raptors will remain a veteran, talented team. The real intrigue begins after the 19-20 season, when the majority of contracts come off the Raptors’ books.

OG Anunoby ($3.8M team option) and Norman Powell ($10.8M) are the only contracts on Toronto’s books in 2020-21. It’s quite likely that Pascal Siakam will receive a max extension, but even so, the Raptors will have cap space for multiple max free agents. Masai Ujiri has proven himself the premier front office wizard in the NBA, and he will surely be able to paint a wondrous image on the Raptors’ blank canvas going forward. Rumours have linked Ujiri to Giannis Antetokounmpo, so don’t be surprised if the Raptors land some big fish of their own in coming years.

The Raptors’ championship, and the brightness of the future, do still not entirely dull the pain of losing Leonard. Just when Toronto tasted real NBA legitimacy, and had a chance to continue to rule the NBA, it was snatched away. Kawhi Leonard is gone.

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