Kawhi Leonard will almost certainly decline the $36 million player option he has available to him this offseason in favor of a bigger deal. When that happens, the Los Angeles Clippers will suddenly find themselves in a very precarious situation.
In 2019, the franchise essentially staked its entire future on a Leonard-Paul George combo being the cornerstone of a championship run. Obviously that didn’t end up working out as planned, with the Clippers ultimately getting embarrassed by the Denver Nuggets in last year’s playoffs.
Since then George has been dealing with persistent injuries that continue to get worse, and Leonard alone has been unable to carry L.A. past the third seed in the Western Conference.
Will all of that ultimately impact the Clippers’ ability to retain Leonard? Perhaps, and there is one team out there that could contend for his services.
According to Evan Massey of NBA Analysis Network, an anonymous NBA agent said that the Miami Heat are a legitimate option for Leonard.
“Kawhi (Leonard) could very well listen to pitches from other teams,” the agent said. “That is something that he is considering. If that does end up being the case, he would be intrigued at the possibility of joining the Miami Heat. Joining forces with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo is something that he would absolutely have interest in.”
That said, not everyone believes that Leonard leaving L.A. is viable.
“Yet barring a dramatic turn of events in these coming months, it’s looking like this Leonard free agency will be decidedly less dramatic,” wrote Sam Amick and John Hollinger of The Athletic. “While this league has certainly taught us to expect the unexpected, the truth is that Leonard is still widely, well, expected to re-sign with the Clippers. As it stands, that’s the word from Clippers sources and rival executives alike."
Leonard is currently averaging 25.8 points on 51.5 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent shooting from beyond the arc. On top of that, he is also putting up 6.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists this year.
Will the Heat ultimately be able steal him away? The odds don’t seem great, but Pat Riley has pulled off crazier feats before.