Clipper fans can rest a bit easier knowing that some NBA executives believe Kawhi Leonard is staying put as a Clipper.
The All-Star can opt out of the final year of his contract this offseason and become a free agent, but according to a poll conducted by HoopsHype, five anonymous NBA executives say he’s going to resign with LA in one form or another.
“All five of the NBA executives polled believe Leonard will ultimately remain with the Clippers after his free agency concludes and look to run it back with [Paul] George and compete for another shot at the championship,” Michael Scotto of HoopsHype wrote.
One executive who was quoted in the article said that they “figure [the Clippers] have to make some changes and run it back with those two guys. You’ve got to give it another chance, I think. They just hired Ty Lue for this group. It wasn’t a normal season. You’ve got to give a normal season a chance first, I’d think.”
Scotto says that many around the league are confident that Leonard will opt out of the final year of his current contract before signing a new deal; he’d be leaving money on the table no matter what by opting in. The real question is whether he’ll sign a four-year, $176.2 million max contract now, or sign a two-year deal with a player option on the second year, allowing him to once again become a free agent next season.
The latter move would make Leonard eligible for a five-year, $235 million deal in the summer of 2022. It would also hold the Clippers over the fire for another season, similar to how LeBron James operated during his second stint in Cleveland. It’ll be interesting to see if Leonard opts for long-term security now (he’s currently recovering from a knee sprain that kept him out of the Conference Finals) or rolls the dice for another season with the goal of securing an extra $59 million.
“I highly doubt Leonard would leave,” another executive said to HoopsHype. “It would take another player recruiting him.”
Free agency begins on Aug. 6 at 9:01 a.m.