The Los Angeles Clippers fell two wins shy of earning the first NBA Finals berth in franchise history. The playoff exit quickly shifts the attention to star forward Kawhi Leonard‘s pending contract situation. As Leonard heads to an expected free agency, two NBA teams may quickly emerge as serious threats to lure him away from Los Angeles.
Clippers fall short in the Western Conference Finals
The Clippers put last year’s playoff struggles behind them with the deepest postseason run in team history.
Los Angeles pushed its way to its first Western Conference Finals appearance behind Paul George’s stellar play. The star forward averaged 26.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists on 44.1% shooting.
Meanwhile, Reggie Jackson also emerged as an extremely dependable offensive option. He averaged 17.8 points on 48.4% shooting from the floor and 40.8 from 3-point range. The Clippers managed to reach the Western Conference Finals without Leonard as he missed the final eight games due to a knee injury.
As the 30-year-old heads toward a crucial contract decision, two other teams may enter the picture as possible landing spots.
Clippers will have to worry about 2 NBA teams becoming serious threats to land Kawhi Leonard
As the Clippers head into the offseason, the franchise may hold some lingering uncertainty concerning Leonard’s long-term future.
The star forward will likely decline the final year of his three-year deal worth roughly $36 million. A growing external concern is sprouting with some in the media believing Leonard could seriously entertain the scenario of leaving Los Angeles.
The Ringer‘s Kevin O’Connor added to the chatter by reporting he’s hearing the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat will make hard pushes to sign Leonard if he heads into free agency.
“The Mavericks and Heat plan to make a hard push to acquire Leonard, league sources say,” O’Connor wrote. “The Knicks will also pursue any superstar that becomes available, and a long list of other suitors would at least make an attempt if he hits the market. Who wouldn’t want a 30-year-old two-time Finals MVP still performing at an All-NBA level?”
The inclusion of the New York Knicks shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The Knicks are coming off an impressive season and possess the young core to build around that may intrigue a star talent. However, the Heat and Mavericks may be the real threats to land Leonard.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has been pinpointing the Heat over the several weeks, voicing he believes the franchise has enough to lure him away from Los Angeles. The Mavericks are an interesting destination as it’s become increasingly clear that the franchise wants to move off Kristaps Porzingis.
A recent report added to the internal friction, stating Porzingis created an issue with Luka Doncic after going to a strip club during the first-round playoff series against the Clippers. Beyond that, his play this past season became more of a regression, fueling the possible need to move off him to build a championship contender.
The question becomes whether Leonard will seriously entertain joining another team after working his way to the Clippers.
Los Angeles holds the most compelling case
The Clippers are fresh off the deepest playoff run in franchise history, finishing two wins shy of securing their first-ever trip to the NBA Finals.
Los Angeles accomplished that feat without Leonard for the final eight games, including the entire Western Conference Finals. His absence also helped provide the opportunity for Jackson and Terance Mann to emerge as highly reliable contributors.
The Clippers will work to keep Jackson in the fold as he’s proven to be a starting-caliber point guard again. Leonard may have the appeal of at least two other franchises willing to go out to acquire him, but it’s hard to envision him leaving what may be his best situation moving forward.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.