He was meticulous about it, but in the end Kawhi Leonard will sign with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The wait is over. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Kawhi Leonard has told the other teams in the running that he will sign with the Los Angeles Clippers. Those runners-up were, of course, the Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Lakers.
After the immediate frenzy when free agency started Sunday night, Leonard took his time. It came down to the draw of returning to the Raptors, and making a run at another title with most everyone back next season, or returning to his hometown to play for the Lakers or the Clippers.
When it came down to the Los Angeles teams, the Clippers were the clear choice. They surprisingly made the playoffs last year, despite being notably without a marquee star after trading Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, led by a core of overachievers and one of the best coaches around in Doc Rivers.
The Lakers, on the other hand, have been a picture of dysfunction in the front office before and after Magic Johnson’s resignation. Playing with LeBron James is one thing, but the looming official addition of Anthony Davis via trade from the New Orleans Pelicans would have made Leonard a third fiddle. With the Clippers, he can be the lead star and theoretically recruit others to play with him.
The Clippers are a team on the rise, with stability in all key areas. Leonard was sure to prioritize winning. Some key behind the scenes factors were surely also in play, like a plan for “load management” to keep Leonard healthy, which the Raptors showed can be done to the highest level of success.
The Golden State Warriors will not fall off the face of the earth, but the Western Conference is wide open now. With Leonard coming, a bet on the Clippers to reach the NBA Finals next season might just pay off.