NBA 2018-19: Will Kawhi Leonard stay with the Toronto Raptors?
Yesterday, the Toronto Raptors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-95. Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. In the past two games, Kawhi Leonard scored a total of 71 points. He had 34 points against the Cavaliers and 37 in a previous game against the Warriors. In that game, the Raptors beat the Warriors in overtime. They won that game 131-128.
The Raptors are currently the best team in the Eastern Conference. They have a record of 20-4. This places the Raptors not only as the top team of the East, but also the best team in the NBA. The Los Angeles Clippers have the best record in the Western Conference, but their record is currently 15-6. The Raptors have a significant lead over the Clippers.
The Raptors are on an eight-game winning streak. Kawhi Leonard is back to his normal self. He's averaging 25.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. After a year of injuries and sitting out, Leonard is finally healthy and playing. Both Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors are in a good space. But, will it last?
While watching the Cavs/Raptors game, a thought came to mind. What if Kawhi Leonard leaves the Raptors next summer? In the 2018 off-season, there were rumors that Kawhi Leonard was interested in going to Los Angeles. He was interested in both the Clippers and Lakers, with the Clippers having a slight advantage.
This was before the San Antonio Spurs traded him to the Raptors. The Spurs traded Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a 2019 first round draft pick. Leonard did not go to the team he desired, but the Raptors were the best choice.
This season, Kawhi Leonard makes nearly $20 million. He has a player option in 2019, which gives him the ability to opt out of his current deal. If he opts out, Leonard will be an unrestricted free agent. Then, he could join one of the L.A teams. But, would that be wise?
The Clippers are the best team in the West (for now), but that could change. The Lakers are sixth in the Western Conference with a record of 13-9. Leonard could help both teams, but the Raptors are the better option. With the Raptors, he is the go-to player (like in San Antonio) and the Raptors have a better chance of reaching the Finals.
He will not only be the go-to player, but he'll be so in a market smaller than L.A. Although he's from L.A, a smaller market fits Leonard's personality. At best, if the Raptors can withstand the Bucks, Celtics, and Sixers, they could reach the NBA Finals. It would be the first time in the team's history. Leonard could do something historic with the Raptors.
Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors are playing well and I see them staying this way. This team is slightly different from their previous years. The addition of Kawhi Leonard has benefited them. With Leonard, they'll no longer be the team with the best record only to get swept in the second round. This team should be much better. As well as Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors are playing, I think this is his best option.