With the Los Angeles Clippers losing in the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns, a big topic of discussion is what will All-Star Kawhi Leonard do? Back in 2019 Leonard signed a 3 year, $103 million contract with the Clippers (player option on the third year), following a magical NBA Finals victory with the Raptors. After blowing a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs last year, and this year getting injured + losing again, could we see Kawhi on his way out?
What would this mean for the Clippers? Well, it has been reported that Kawhi was originally going to sign with the Lakers, however the Clippers made a blockbuster trade for Paul George, therefore enticing Kawhi Leonard to sign with the baby brother LA team. The Clippers acquired George from the Oklahoma City Thunder by giving up Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and a boatload of draft picks. Of course, as mentioned this helped get Kawhi to sign, however this is a championship type move. Giving up your future for two stars needs to result in a championship – yet it hasn’t happened. Paul George was a liability in the bubble, earning the nickname “Pandemic P,” however really stood out this year when Kawhi went out. If I’m the lunatic Steve Ballmer and Kawhi absolutely wants to leave I would try a sign and trade to replenish the future. Paul George averaged 26.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists in the playoffs this year. He was asked to do everything and he accomplished that. Are the Clippers without Kawhi contenders? I would say they are playoff contenders but without a second star, not even close to the finals.
Many teams will obviously be interested in Kawhi Leonard, but do they have the assets to acquire him? Let’s look at 8 possible destinations for Kawhi.
8. Los Angeles Lakers
,It seems wild to have the Lakers this low, but let’s be real do the Clippers really want Kyle Kuzma and first round picks as early as 2025? I highly doubt the Clippers trade Kawhi to the Lakers, so let’s say there isn’t a sign and trade and Kawhi chooses to sign with them – how will they pay the man? The Lakers are in cap space hell currently, and now knowing the NBA and the stature of it all if Kawhi were to play with the Lakers I’m sure they’d figure out a way – teams always do. Can you imagine a superteam consisting of Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James? Exactly we can’t because that is simply not the type of guy Kawhi is.
7. Philadelphia 76ers
After Ben Simmons atrocious playoff performance this year, it’s looking like he’s on his way out of Philly. The 76ers need a reliable number 1 guy – with all due respect to Joel Embiid, it’s tough to be a number 1 option as a center. Embiid would be a Phenomenal number 2 , an absolute force to be reckoned with. However, the man is not setting up plays bringing the ball up. This is where Kawhi steps in. Kawhi can make his own plays, now your offense is opened up and we don’t have someone clogging the paint, Leonard has a tremendous mid range and can hit the three ball. Most importantly he hits his free throws! If Clippers want to play hard to get, I would throw in Tobias Harris. This may seem unpopular, after Harris averaged 21.8 points, and 8.5 rebounds in the playoffs this year – proving he can be a dependable scorer, I simply don’t see him repeating that next year. Philly has a darn good supporting cast – Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, Seth Curry, I think Philly would be able to give up Harris + Simmons + many other assets for Kawhi. Although due to cap space, it looks to be very unlikely.
6. Denver Nuggets
After being swept in the second round of the playoffs against the Phoenix Suns, the Denver Nuggets may look to make a splash. I feel as though Denver have the young assets that could intrigue the Clippers. Plus Kawhi would play alongside Jamal Murray and MVP Nikola Jokic. Michael Porter Jr. is someone I highly expect would be apart of this trade. MPJ averaged 19 points per game this year, and has shown signs or being a star. I feel as though he is a future all star, and could develop very well alongside Paul George. A package revolving around MPJ, Aaron Gordon, and 2-4 first round picks for Kawhi makes sense to me for both sides. Clippers restore some of their future, and Nuggets get put into the title contention.
5. Golden State Warriors
Klay Thompson coming back from back to back leg injuries, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry aren’t getting any younger, the Golden State Warriors have got to be looking to adding someone who will elevate this team right now. Curry is coming off a remarkable season, but the man is 33 years old, the Warriors have got to take advantage of his prime, and their big three before it’s too late. I believe these guys can definitely make another title run. The Warriors can put together a pretty good package for Kawhi as well, Andrew Wiggins coming off of a career year, young rising star James Wiseman, plus 7 and 14 overall. They can probably throw in a lot more too! Kawhi went to LA to go home, but Golden State is also in California. The Warriors don’t have the time to develop James Wiseman or use pick number 7 and 14, so package up everything and snag another superstar!
4. New York Knicks
The New York Knicks surprised everyone this year with Julius Randle performing at an MVP level, helping carry the Knicks to the 4 seed. It seemed they were just one superstar away. We’ve seen what Kawhi did in Toronto, could he sign a 1 year deal with New York just to try and win a chip? The Knicks currently have the most cap space in the league. They can throw a bag at Kawhi without worrying about trading some of their young guys for him. The Knicks have a great future ahead of them- New York already being a big market + getting a big named star would be tremendous. I can’t see the Knicks trade for Kawhi if a sign and trade were to go down, but signing Kawhi for a year or long term is a very high possibility.
3. Dallas Mavericks
Pairing up Luka Doncic and Kawhi Leonard should be illegal, but it is being reported the Mavs will heavily pursue Kawhi, and I think they have the assets to acquire him. Although even if the Clippers don’t want to do a sign and trade, the Mavs can just straight up sign him if Kawhi wants. I have a problem with Kawhi + Luka however – can Luka play with another star? No doubt it may sound strange, but we saw Luka somewhat ball hog with Kristaps Porzingis. No doubt Kawhi is a way better player, and Luka may be more inclusive, but it is something to consider. Kawhi, Luka, Porzingis would be so fun to watch. Fans roared for Mavs to get Luka help, and acquiring Kawhi would be more than enough.
2. Miami Heat
There isn’t a superstar I haven’t seen photoshopped into a Miami Heat jersey. Along with the Mavs it is reported the Heat will heavily pursue Kawhi, and I would love to see that. Before wanting to play with Paul George in LA, Leonard wanted Jimmy Butler. Miami is a fun, young, exciting team to watch. Adding Kawhi would obviously put them back into the championship spotlight. If I’m Pat Riley, I’m doing anything in my power to get Kawhi, yes even trading the great Tyler Herro – let’s not be stingy with moving him this time. I also feel like Kawhi would look really good in their jerseys.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
Kawhi could’ve stayed with Toronto and stayed on top, but instead he wanted to go home to LA and play with his buddy PG13. Him walking away from all the glory, gold, and glitter shows me he probably doesn’t care about winning as much as we’re making it out to be. I’m sure Kawhi wouldn’t leave LA, especially after how Paul George preformed this postseason. The talent is there, they can snag a couple depth pieces like a solid center in free agency. Leonard and George play well together, and from the outside at least, Kawhi seems to have no problem in LA. Could we see him leave? Sure, but I think the Fun Guy would rather stay home and try to succeed than go somewhere else that’s built. Financially he would probably still decline his player option and sign either short or long term. The 30 year old, 5 time All Star, 2 time NBA Finals MVP, 2 time NBA Defensive Player of the Year will be getting a lot of buzz this offseason, and teams will likely jump at the chance to throw the kitchen sink out the window for Kawhi. But at the end of the day he has the control, and will make the right decision for himself.