Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard could now be considered the biggest prize in NBA free agency this offseason.
Though he was largely seen as a secondary free-agent target after Golden State's Kevin Durant, the torn Achilles suffered by Durant—not to mention Leonard's status as the reigning Finals MVP—has likely pushed the 27-year-old to the top of many teams' wish lists.
According to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes, Leonard will decline his 2019-20 option and officially become a free agent, making the possibility of landing him a bit closer to reality for teams other than Toronto.
Of course, if money is a determining factor for Leonard, the Raptors could still be considered the favorites to land him, as they're the only team that can offer a max deal worth $190 million.
Here, we'll examine the latest on Leonard, as well as some of the other NBA offseason buzz.
Leonard Could Return to Toronto
Leonard is going to have his fair share of options in free agency when the market opens on June 30. One team to keep an eye on is the Los Angeles Clippers.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski previously reported that Leonard has been focusing on the Clippers.
According to Haynes, however, Leonard is "seriously considering" a return to the Raptors.
So would Leonard sign a max deal with Toronto and stay with the franchise for the next half-decade? Well, not necessarily.
"One prime option for Kawhi, remember, is signing a two-year, $70 million deal with Toronto—with a player option in Year 2—that allows him to run it back with the Raptors for one more year and do this all again next summer," Marc Stein of the New York Times recently said on Twitter.
Essentially, Leonard could sign up for one more run with Toronto and then try his luck in free agency next season. According to Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times, this potential scenario makes the Raptors front-runners along with the Clippers.
"The New York Knicks and [Los Angeles] Lakers are expected to be granted meetings with Leonard as well, but the race for Leonard's signature has long been considered a two-team fight between the Clippers and Raptors," Greif wrote. "What he will decide remains anyone's guess."
Celtics Eyeing Steven Adams
While the Boston Celtics aren't expected to be one of the teams in the market for Leonard, they have some work to do this offseason. They are on track to lose both Kyrie Irving and Al Horford in free agency. Horford—long a key role player for the franchise—could be the more difficult of the two to replace.
One possible option to replace Horford is Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams.
According to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston, Adams is a potential trade target:
"Adams is on Boston's radar, but it's unclear where he falls in the team's pecking order as far as players they plan to pursue, or exactly what they are willing to give up in order to acquire him. But if you're talking about big men who can make a major impact, Adams is one of those players that has to be given serious consideration."
Adams is a strong two-way player who averaged 13.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last season while shooting 59.5 percent from the field. According to Spotrac, he has two years remaining on his contract and is set to carry a base salary of just under $26 million next season.
Financially, working in Adams should be doable. Boston was set to pay Horford $30.1 million for the coming season before he declined to exercise his player option.
Nets Closing in on Durant?
Though his Achilles injury makes Durant a less-attractive target than he was a month ago, plenty of teams will consider him in free agency. He's one of the game's most dominant scorers when healthy, and someone is going to jump at the chance to have him in 2021.
According to former Celtics player Kendrick Perkins, the Brooklyn Nets could have the best chance of being that team.
"I'm not ruling out the Knicks, but I think the Nets are the front-runners and people are not giving them their [respect]. Sources tell me that the Nets are the front-runner—we'll leave it at that." Perkins said on ESPN's The Jump (h/t Omnisport via Yahoo Sports).
Though Durant isn't likely to suit up next season, his level of interest in Brooklyn could play a role in the franchise's pursuit of Irving this offseason, as Brian Lewis of the New York Post recently pointed out.
"The Post has confirmed Brooklyn might have qualms about signing the enigmatic Irving if he isn't bringing the injured Durant with him," Lewis wrote.
While Durant will not be on the court in 2019, his decision could heavily impact who is on the court for the Nets.