The Toronto Raptors had a season of their dreams, crowned with the first NBA title in the history of the franchize. And not even the most optimistic fans could have imagined the team would go all the way to the Finals.
After Dwayne Casey left for Detroit, his assistant Nick Nurse took over and got his first job as a coach of an NBA team.
DeMar DeRozan left the Raptors after nine years, traded, along with Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round draft pick, to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Kawhi Leonard arrived in Toronto after playing only 9 games for the Spurs in the previous season, and even seriously considering to end his career due to problems with injuries.
But 2014 Finals MVP had a phenomenal season, leading the team to the NBA title. Kawhi was inspiring, scoring an average of 26.6 points in the regular season, and 30.5 in the playoffs.
Where Will He Go Now?
Leonard will soon become a free agent, and only a year after he was close to giving up on his career, the 27-year-old small forward attracted a lot of attention.
A number of teams are rumoured to be looking to get his signature, but at this moment it’s hard to give a prediction which of them will actually succeed in it. But we can assess what each of these teams can offer him.
Staying in Toronto
It was reported a couple of days ago that Leonard would decline his option to stay at the Raptors. This option is worth $21.3 million, and by doing so he is looking to get a better contract. His agent did confirm he was thinking of re-signing with the Raptors, which is a logical move as Toronto could offer him a five-year contract worth $190 million, or even a two-year one, worth $70 million.
If he stays in Toronto, he would remain in the team with a shot at a title, but most importantly, he would stay in the team where he made history and already earned a status of a legend.
According to rumours, there are other options as well.
Los Angeles Clippers
A couple of days ago, someone out posted a billboard in L.A., suggesting Kawhi could be coming to California. He was born in the City of Angels, and L.A. was reportedly his preferred destination when he asked to leave the Spurs. The team has a well-balanced mix of experienced players like Lou Williams, and young prospects like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The Clippers have never managed to advance from the Conference semis, but they do have the potential to achieve big stuff. Leonard can be a key factor in doing that. He could easily become The Man for them.
New York Knicks
Several reports suggested that Leonard will meet with Knicks’ officials when he becomes a free agent, but at the moment is hard to imagine him leaving the Raptors to go to New York.
On the other hand, as the Knicks have cap space, Leonard could bring someone with him to the team.
If he wants to see all the sights of the Big Apple, there are far better ways than joining the squad that managed to record only 17 wins during the last season.
The rumours suggest these teams could be looking to snatch Leonard, but everyone agrees they have the least chance to do so. The Nets do make more sense than the Knicks, but the team from Brooklyn is focused on other players, namely Irving and Durrant.
He would be a perfect addition to the Sixers, but Leonard is not likely to go to a team he single-handedly beat in the playoffs.
The Los Angeles Lakers definitely sound appealing: there’s the location, the history, the ambitions. It doesn’t sound bad playing with Anthony Davies and LeBron James, but it’s hard to imagine Kawhi as a part of a superteam.
What Do the Odds Say?
According to the latest odds, the Lakers are the favourites to win the NBA next season with 9/2. They are followed by the Bucks and the Clippers with 6/1, the Rockets with 8/1, and the Raptors who are placed at 10/1.
However, this could mean little for Kawhi when making his final decision. Let’s just wait and see.
No matter what he decides, one thing is for certain: the new season of NBA will start in October. As always, you’ll be able to find the best selection of odds at LeoVegas.