Kawhi Leonard could be an unrestricted free agent if he declines his $36 million player option, but the forward is expected to return to the Los Angeles Clippers on a new deal.
"I've got no indication that Kawhi Leonard is interested in doing anything besides re-signing with the Clippers and rehabbing that injury," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said Sunday on the Woj & Lowe Free Agency Special.
Leonard suffered a torn ACL in the playoffs and could miss much—if not all—of the 2021-22 season. ESPN's Zach Lowe noted there will still be interest in the open market despite the injury, but the Clippers expect the veteran to re-sign this offseason.
"The way they are proceeding, certainly seems to be with Kawhi Leonard in mind," Wojnarowski said of the Clippers.
The Clippers signed Leonard in 2019 while also trading for Paul George to create one of the best tandems in the NBA. The squad hasn't won a title in the two seasons together, but it did reach the Western Conference semifinals each year and went to the Western Conference Final in 2021 despite Kawhi's second-round injury.
George already signed a contract extension that keeps him in Los Angeles through at least 2023-24, and now Leonard can join him on his own long-term deal.
A new contract could extend the Clippers' window of contention, retaining a player who has five All-Star selections, two Defensive Player of the Year awards and two NBA titles, winning Finals MVP both times.
When healthy, Leonard has proved to be one of the top players in the league and someone who can almost single-handedly carry a team to title contention.
Even if the 30-year-old does re-sign with Los Angeles, the team must survive the upcoming year without him as he recovers from his knee injury. George should help the squad maintain high expectations as a seven-time All-Star who averaged 26.9 points per game during the playoffs this year, but the rest of the team will have to step up until Leonard returns to full strength.