By Michael Kaskey-Blomain,
Leonard’s decision may not hinge on how Toronto fares in the NBA Finals or how much more it can pay him in free agency.
The Toronto Raptors’ inspiring push through the Eastern Conference playoffs and all the way to the NBA Finals may not ultimately have an impact on Kawhi Leonard’s plans for his upcoming free agency.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne still feels that Leonard will leave Toronto for Los Angeles — either the Clippers or Lakers — despite the Raptors’ success this season — although she did note that it would be more difficult for Leonard to leave if Toronto goes on to win the NBA title.
Via Clutch Points:
Ramona Shelburne, who is currently in Toronto covering the NBA Finals, joined the ESPN radio in Los Angeles to talk about the surprise Game 1 and was asked whether she thinks the winner of the Finals will have an impact on free agency.
“If the Raptors win this, it’ll be hard for Kawhi to leave,” said Shelburne. “I still think he does, I know there’s like this flickering hope that he would stay regardless because he does enjoy Canada.
“I just think the guy has been pretty clear. He wants to be back home in California. he has a house there which he has wanted the whole time. He wanted that before anything went south with the Spurs. This is a pretty consistent desire. It’s not like Paul George, where like Paul George, he’s from Palmdale but he likes fishing and that kind of a lifestyle. That’s very Oklahoma.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has previously noted that location — not winning, or even money — might be a determining factor for some of the league’s top free agents, including Leonard.
“I think he’s going to make a decision based on where he wants to live, where he wants to play,” Wojnarowski said. “I don’t know that winning or losing impacts what Kevin Durant does, and even with Kawhi Leonard. Both players could make $200 million plus by staying where they are. They’re going to have to take less money to go somewhere else … I don’t know if money is going to be a factor for either of them.”
The Raptors have certainly made a compelling case to Leonard over the course of the season, both in terms of on-court results and off-court treatment, but ultimately the team can’t control where it’s located, and if Leonard wants to be in L.A., that’s where he’ll be.
Leonard has been dominant on the court over the course of the postseason, but his future remains one of the biggest question marks in the entire league.