Kawhi Leonard Signs 3-Year, $103M Max Contract with Clippers

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2019

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, in Denver. The Nuggets won 95-86. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Kawhi Leonard formally signed his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

The team made the move official:

LA Clippers @LAClippers

π™’π™€π™‡π˜Ύπ™Šπ™ˆπ™€ π™ƒπ™Šπ™ˆπ™€ @kawhileonard is officially a Clipper. https://t.co/EuZ5Zaixy0

Leonard was eligible to earn up to $141 million over four years by joining the Clippers. However, Charania reported his contract is for three years and $103 million, with a player option in the third year.

Shams Charania @ShamsCharania

Leonard has signed a two-plus-one and aligned his contract with Paul George -- with both players having the ability via player option to enter 2021 free agency. https://t.co/ZK3Z5huqiu

The structure of Leonard's deal allows him to have a lot of flexibility if he's ultimately unhappy in Los Angeles or simply wants a new challenge. NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh added the three-time All-Star stands to gain a lot financially as well:

Tom Haberstroh @tomhaberstroh

Sets Kawhi up to get the coveted 10+ year max in 2021, worth 35% of the cap or an estimated 4-yr/$196M deal. Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler both passed up that chance, instead signing for 4 years. If Kawhi stayed with TOR on 2+1, he could have gotten 5-yr/$250M. https://t.co/IDUmDj8mIr

This sets up a free-agent bonanza in 2021. Leonard, Paul George, LeBron James, Bradley Beal and Giannis Antetokounmpo are all either unrestricted free agents or eligible to opt out of their contracts during that offseason.

Assuming Leonard opts out, getting him for two years instead of four years still makes the Clippers' gambit worth it. Landing Leonard and acquiring George was a statement of intent from the franchise and immediately makes it a championship threat.

Leonard's decision to sign for only three years adds a little more risk, however.

The Clippers leveraged their future in order to convince him to sign. TheyΒ tradedΒ first-round picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder for George and the Thunder have the right to swap first-rounders in 2023 and 2025.

Joining the Clippers appears to have been Leonard's preferred move. ESPN'sΒ Ramona ShelburneΒ reported he reached out to Kevin Durant about joining him in L.A. before shifting to George. One would presume he has every intention at the moment of re-signing with the Clippers in two years.

But a lot of things can change before then.

This summer already accelerated the Clippers' timeline for title contention and now they have even more urgency to make the most of the next two seasons.


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