If there is one thing that NBA fans and media members learned from the 2019 free agency cycle, it’s that no one really knows what Kawhi Leonard is thinking.
The All-Star forward signed with the Clippers two years ago after a recruitment process that was filled with more twists and turns than a daytime soap opera. Leonard can become an unrestricted free agent once again this summer by declining his player option, and while previous reports have indicated that he is widely expected to re-sign with Los Angeles, no one would be shocked if the 30-year-old decides to have conversations with other teams.
So, which outside suitors could actually force Leonard to consider leaving the Clippers after just two seasons? The Mavericks and Heat both “plan to make a hard push to acquire Leonard,” according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, who noted that Dallas is viewed by some league executives as “the most serious threat” to acquire Leonard via cap space or sign-and-trade.
The Mavericks could offer Leonard the opportunity to play alongside Luka Doncic, the Slovenian wunderkind who averaged 35.7 points, 10.3 assists and 7.9 rebounds in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs against the Clippers. Leonard also has a good relationship with Mavs general manager Nico Harrison, per O’Connor. He previously worked with Leonard during his time as a Nike executive.
Another round of free agency rumors would provide some offseason entertainment, but it’s important to keep in mind that the Clippers are still the heavy favorite in the Leonard sweepstakes.
When given the chance to stick with the defending champion Raptors or join LeBron James and the Lakers, Leonard chose the Clippers and convinced Paul George to request a trade out of Oklahoma City. He can remain in his home state and continue playing for a contender. The Clippers will structure his next contract in any way he chooses. Simply put, Los Angeles can present a very compelling case to stay.
But again, we’re talking about Kawhi Leonard here. Nothing can be ruled out just yet.