Raptors' Masai Ujiri Had 'Very Good Meetings' with Kawhi Leonard Amid FA RumorsJune 25, 2019
Kawhi Leonard's free agency will have enormous ripple effects around the NBA, and the team he decides on will be among the favorites to win a title next season.
Returning to the Toronto Raptors remains a possibility, and president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri spoke about Leonard's impending free agency with reporters Tuesday:
Josh Lewenberg @JLew1050
Masai admits that the Raps will be in a bit of a holding pattern until Kawhi makes his decision, but thinks they're built to do that and be fine without reacting to everything else that goes on. "We'll wait. He's our player and he's a superstar on our team and we'll wait on that"
If Leonard returns to Toronto, the Raptors will arguably be the favorites to repeat as NBA champions depending on what other teams do in free agency. But if he departs, the Raptors will likely transition to a rebuild.
Kyle Lowry's $33.2 million salary could be hard to move, though the Raptors would probably put him on the trade block. Marc Gasol could be shopped as well if he opts into his $25.5 million player option, or he could walk in free agency. Danny Green may not be re-signed. The Raptors would turn to building around Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and perhaps Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell.
Granted, Toronto wants Leonard back, and unsurprisingly, Leonard's intentions remain unclear. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported during the NBA draft that the Clippers and Raptors were "at the front of the line" when it came to signing the superstar forward, though he added that Leonard could also meet with the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets.
Granted, some of those teams may not be willing to wait to take a meeting with Leonard. If Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris are willing to re-sign in Philly, the Sixers likely wouldn't wait around and risk losing either player. If Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant commit to Brooklyn, it's hard to imagine the Nets telling that pair to wait around until the team can meet with Leonard.
But the Raptors can afford to sit in a holding pattern while Leonard mulls his future. They'll either be contenders if he's back or will rebuild if he leaves. There doesn't appear to be much of a middle ground.