Kawhi Leonard opted to sign a relatively short deal with the Los Angeles Clippers that could see the reigning NBA Finals MVP hit free agency as soon as 2021.
The $103.1 million contract includes a player option for the 2021-22 season. Details of the contract were first reported by The Athletic.
Leonard, George Could Hit Free Agency Together
That gives Leonard the ability to hit the free agent market at the same time as new teammate Paul George, who was acquired by the Clippers in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“He wins everywhere he goes, and he always has,” said Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank while announcing the official signing. “Having him on our side is a tremendous privilege and a massive responsibility, one we will take very seriously.”
Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA championship. After scoring 26.6 points and grabbing 7.3 rebounds per game in regular season, the three-time All-Star helped the Raptors defeat the defending champion Golden State Warriors in six games in the finals.
The trade for George was also announced on Wednesday, with Los Angeles sending four unprotected future first-round draft picks and a protected first-round pick along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari to Oklahoma City in exchange for the All-Star forward.
“Paul George is one of the greatest two-way players in our game,” Frank said after the trade was announced. “When you have the opportunity to acquire a contributor of his caliber, you do what it takes to bring him home. Paul is a native of the Los Angeles area and an ideal fit for the Clippers, thanks to his selflessness and drive.”
George is coming off of a standout season for the Thunder, averaging career highs in points (28.0), rebounds (8.2), assists (4.1), and steals (2.2). Oklahoma City reached the playoffs, but lost in five games to the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.
Clippers Now Favored to Win 2020 Title
The additions of Leonard and George to the Clippers marked two of the biggest moves in a wild, fast-paced free agency period in the NBA offseason.
Kawhi’s move to Los Angeles was a disappointment to Toronto, which had hoped his experience in Canada would convince him to stay with the Raptors. But according to TSN Raptors beat reporter Josh Lewenberg, the team felt it was out of the running after Leonard’s camp began making “unreasonable” requests, which may have been coming from Kawhi’s uncle, Dennis Robertson – known around the league as Uncle Dennis.
“I know free agency, I know how it works. It’s not my first rodeo,” Raptors team president Masai Ujiri told reporters on Tuesday in Las Vegas. “You know things are going to go up and down. This was a different kind of free agency. It was high stakes and we understood that.”
With both Leonard and George on the roster, the Clippers have become the favorites to win the 2020 NBA Championship. At FanDuel Sportsbook, the Clippers are the +290 pick to win a title next season ahead of their crosstown rivals the Lakers (+480), with the Milwaukee Bucks (+600), Philadelphia 76ers (+900), and Golden State Warriors (+1200) following behind them.