The Los Angeles Clippers are once again being a disappointment so far in NBA Playoffs, trailing the Dallas Mavericks 0-2 in their first round series. Aside from all the heat the Clippers have received on social media, there are several headlines as well to watch out for especially if the series does not go their way. One storyline in particular that looms is Kawhi Leonard’s free agency.
The Klaw has a player option by the end of this season, which means he can choose if he wants to stay with the Clippers or perhaps move on. While ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has hinted that Leonard doesn’t plan to go anywhere, there’s still a possibility that this changes—especially with how the Clippers are folding as of writing.
Leonard has been special for the Clippers throughout the season. Gone are the days when he skips back-to-back games for load management. But the possibility of him going out in the first round has become more apparent, largely due to the dominance of Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic.
In Leonard’s defense, he’s been playing his heart out in the series. He has rendered 41 minutes in both games so far and has carried the scoring load for the Clippers. He had 26 points in Game 1 and 41 points in Game 2, so questions about his willingness to win are moot. Sadly for Leonard, the series is not in his sole control because that’s just how basketball works.
What’s in his control though is the destination he can go to this offseason. If we’re basing our prediction on a particular decision in the past, Leonard might just end up staying in Hollywood after all because that’s one of the main reasons why he chose the Clippers in the first place.
However, the do-it-all forward might want to be in a system with a good coach, better teammates (sorry, Paul George), and probably a franchise with championship pedigree (sorry, Clippers).
With all that said, here are five possible free agency destinations for Kawhi Leonard.
Before picking the Clippers, Leonard was recruiting Jimmy Butler to join him (sorry again, Paul George). But obviously, Butler chose his own trajectory and signed with the Heat. That doesn’t mean Leonard might not be considering South Beach this offseason, especially with how successful the organization has been throughout the years.
Stephen A. Smith on Miami Heat
"Kawhi Leonard might come there because, undercover wise, his relationship with Jimmy Butler is pretty damn good."https://t.co/wyUpCfk8zr
— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) May 25, 2021
Not only does he get to team up with Butler but he also could work under Erik Spoelstra, who arguably is the best coach in the NBA. The Heat have proven they’re one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and the chase for Leonard could make sense for them if they really want to maximize Butler’s prime. If all else fails in South Beach this season, Pat Riley might form a super team consisting of Butler, Leonard, and perhaps Kyle Lowry.
Long-time Knicks fan and ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith must be feeling giddy with the idea of Kawhi Leonard going to the Knicks. The team had a successful campaign and no matter what happens to them in the NBA Playoffs, it’s safe to say the Knicks overachieved. Leonard can opt to go to the Knicks and work with Julius Randle, RJ Barnett, and coach Tom Thibodeau. It also helps that the Knicks have the cap space to sign a big superstar like Leonard.
— Knicks Nation (@KnicksNationCP) June 7, 2019
If the Clippers do in fact lose to the Mavericks, Draymond Green should call Leonard right away. Green himself said that he, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson will be working with the front office to bring back the golden days of the Warriors. Although the cap situation does look tight, acquiring Leonard is still a possibility for the team—maybe something that involves Andrew Wiggins? Who knows? But if the Kevin Durant deal worked out for the Warriors, this can find its way as well.
Imagine a lineup with Curry, Green, Leonard, and Thompson? This will be a nightmare for all opposing teams.
What if this time, Anthony Davis and LeBron James successfully convince Kawhi Leonard to move to the other side? The cap is pretty tight in Laker Land as well but this is still a possibility. One reason why is because Leonard loves Los Angeles and moving to the Lakers will help him stay in his hometown. Unlike the Clippers, the Lakers have proven time and again that they know how to build around their superstars. Who stops a trio of James, Davis, and Leonard?
Stay with the Clippers
Leonard can move the needle once again this coming free agency but if he decides to stay with the Clippers then all that will be put to rest. Leonard staying is the most likely possibility but not guaranteed, especially if they embarrass themselves in the first round. The Clippers must do everything they can to convince Leonard to stay but that’s going to be extra difficult with the number of assets they gave up to put the Leonard-George era together.
Suffice it to say that this is going to be an interesting offseason for the Los Angeles Clippers.