San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard plans to sign in Los Angeles – specifically with the Lakers – in free agency 2019, according to a report from ESPN.
Things could certainly change between now and then, but any team that tries to trade for Leonard this offseason will have to view him as a one-year rental, and develop their offers accordingly.
“Leonard wants a trade to Los Angeles, preferably the Lakers over the Clippers, league sources said. He has privately maintained that he no longer wants to play in San Antonio, and will eventually alert rival teams considering trades for him that his intentions are to sign in Los Angeles — preferably with the Lakers — when he can become a free agent in 2019, league sources said.”
The Spurs could offer Leonard a max contract extension worth over $200 million over the offseason, but it’s extremely unlikely that the organization would make that kind of an offer to a player that doesn’t want to be there. With his contract as currently constructed, Leonard is due $20 million for the 2018-19 season, and he has a player option worth $21.3 million for the 2019-20 season.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports reported on Friday that Leonard ‘wants out’ of San Antonio after spending the first seven seasons of his NBA career with the organization.
According to Charania, Leonard has ‘grown uncomfortable’ with the organization and is ready to make a move to another NBA team. This news comes after the All-Star forward missed the majority of the 2017-18 season due to a quadriceps injury. Leonard hadn’t been around the team over the final six weeks of the regular season and wasn’t on the bench supporting his teammates in their opening round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors.
Leonard last appeared in a game for the Spurs on January 13, and the two-time Defensive Player of the Year appeared in just nine total games during the ’17-18 season. During those nine appearances, Leonard was unable to perform at the high level that he has established for himself over recent seasons, as he posted averages of 16.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game on 46.8 percent shooting from the field and 31.4 percent from beyond the arc; numbers that are all below his career averages. The way that his injury was handled by both parties led to friction between Leonard and the Spurs.
Though Leonard will have no shortage of suitors if he is made available in a trade, his firm preference is to play in L.A.; a reality that he seems determined to make happen, one way or another.