Woj: Kawhi Leonard's LA Focus on Clippers, Not Lakers; Raptors Still in Play

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2019

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard speaks at a news conference alongside the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophy after the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, June 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski does not believe a Big Three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard with the Los Angeles Lakers is a likely scenario entering the 2019 offseason.

Appearing Tuesday on Get Up, Wojnarowski reported that Leonard's decision in free agency will probably come down to re-signing with the Toronto Raptors or joining the Los Angeles Clippers:

"The reality is Kawhi Leonard's focused on Los Angeles, but it's the Clippers, not the Lakers. No. 1, they don't have the money to sign him. And two, the idea of him being a third wheel on a team trying to create a superteam, that has not been Kawhi's M.O. The Clippers are poised to be able to lure him from Toronto. This will be a Raptors-Clippers fight down to the end. He may take meetings with more teams; it's not even certain he'd even take a meeting with the Lakers right now."

Leonard led the Raptors to their first NBA championship in team history and was named the 2019 NBA Finals MVP in Toronto's 4-2 series win over the Golden State Warriors.

The 27-year-old is a Riverside, California, native who has long been linked to a move to L.A. The Lakers are already viewed as a top title contender after reportedly acquiring Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans to play alongside James and Kyle Kuzma, but Leonard would make them the unquestioned favorite.

Even so, reports have placed the Clippers much higher on Leonard's list than the Lakers for the past several months.

During the NBA Finals, Joe Vardon of The Athletic reported that the Clippers "feel confident" Leonard will listen to their pitch in free agency, but they also have concerns that he will remain with the Raptors. Now that Kawhi has won a championship in Toronto, the odds of re-signing may be even greater.

When taking the Raptors, Clippers and Lakers into consideration, it can be argued that the Lakers give Leonard the best chance to win a title next season and the Raptors give him the best opportunity to be the face of the franchise—and Toronto offers the best of both worlds.

Not only has Leonard already won it all in Toronto, but he is also the go-to guy on a strong team that is returning the likes of Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet.

If Leonard does sign with the Clippers, it could have something to do with the allure of wanting to lead another team to its first championship. The difference between the Raptors and Clippers is that Kawhi would be heralded as a hometown hero if he does it in L.A.

Despite lacking a superstar, the Clippers took the Warriors to six games in the first round of the 2019 NBA playoffs. Adding Kawhi to a roster that already includes Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, Montrezl Harrell and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would make the Clippers a major threat in the Western Conference, especially since the Warriors may be without both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson next season.

The Lakers would have a true superteam if they were to sign Leonard, but Wojnarowski noted that they may look to fill out the rosters with some much-needed shooters instead. He specifically mentioned Seth Curry, Danny Green and JJ Redick as possible targets.

A Lakers team with James, Davis, Leonard and Kuzma would be tough to beat, but since they severely lack depth and shooting ability, missing out on Kawhi may not be such a bad thing for the organization.

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