Kawhi Leonard Just Clearly Outlined His Free Agency Plans
LA Clippers small forward Kawhi Leonard is one of the best players in the NBA. He’s a two-time Finals MVP, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and four-time All-Star.
As a result of his stellar basketball skills, Leonard gets paid a lot of money by the Clippers. He signed a three-year, $103.1 million contract with the team during the summer of 2019 after winning the 2019 championship over the Golden State Warriors with the Toronto Raptors.
Kawhi Leonard made $32.7 million in his first season with the Clippers, and he’s set to make $34.4 million in 2020-21. While LAC is hoping that the swingman spends the rest of his career with the franchise, nothing is certain in the crazy business that is the NBA.
Kawhi Leonard had a stellar 2019-20 regular season for the Clippers
Kawhi Leonard appeared in 57 games for the Clippers last season. He averaged 27.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists while shooting 47.0% from the field, 37.8% from beyond the arc, and 88.6% from the free-throw line.
Thanks to Leonard, the Clippers won 49 games during the 2019-20 regular season and racked up the second-best record in the rugged Western Conference. LAC even went 2-2 against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Leonard, who loves to compete against James, averaged 30.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in four games versus the Lakers.
Kawhi Leonard made the All-NBA second team in his first season with the Clippers. Overall, it was a successful regular season for the California native.
Kawhi Leonard choked in Game 7 of the 2020 playoffs against the Nuggets
The Clippers defeated the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2020 playoffs in six games. In the six-game series, Kawhi Leonard averaged 32.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 2.3 steals.
The Denver Nuggets were the Clippers’ second-round opponent. Leonard and LAC took a 3-1 series lead over Denver. It appeared that the Clippers were finally going to reach the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
However, Leonard and the Clippers blew their 3-1 series lead to the Nuggets and lost in seven games. Leonard not only failed to close out the series for the Clippers, but he choked in Game 7 by registering zero points in the fourth quarter. Leonard finished Game 7 with just 14 points while shooting a woeful 27.3% from the field.
After the Clippers’ epic choke job, NBA pundits began to speculate if Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have what it takes to lead the Clippers to the promised land. George’s name came up in a few trade rumors, but the Clippers put an end to those talks by signing PG-13 to a four-year, $176 million maximum contract extension.
George is now locked up by the Clippers for the long-haul, but Leonard–the team’s best player–is still planning to enter free agency during the offseason of 2021.
Board Man will decline his 2021-22 player option
Kawhi Leonard is planning to test free agency in 2021, as the future Hall of Famer told reporters on Monday he will decline his 2021-22 player option with the Clippers worth $36 million.
While Leonard said he’s focused on the upcoming season, he admitted that there is no guarantee he will stay with the Clippers. After all the drama the team went through last season, some around the league believe LAC doesn’t have the proper makeup to win a championship.
The Clippers parted ways with head coach Doc Rivers during the offseason and replaced him with Tyronn Lue. It’s going to be fascinating to see if the former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach can get the best out of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this upcoming season and lead the franchise to its first-ever NBA title.
If the Clippers fail to meet expectations again, though, don’t be surprised if Leonard decides to leave the team in 2021.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference. Contracts courtesy of Spotrac.