Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes (remember him? We’ll get back to this) has some news to report on Kawhi Leonard’s upcoming free agency:
Yahoo Sources: Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard declining $21.3 million player option to become unrestricted free agent with the Finals MVP seriously considering re-signing. https://t.co/cWhpcyyjXO pic.twitter.com/c8qNBOi0Nu— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 23, 2019
Now, there are two distinct parts to this tweet, so let’s break the both down, shall we?
If you’ve been following the Kawhi Leonard’s free agency — and NBA free agency in general — closely, the fist part of the tweet is a no-brainer. Leonard’s current contract technically runs through the end of next season, but has a player option for that season, meaning he can choose to complete the contract — or opt out, and become an unrestricted free agent.
Leonard will choose the latter, because it makes more financial sense; as an unrestricted free agent, Leonard can sign a new contract now, one which will pay him more money next season than the current deal, and extend into the future.
The exact dollar figure and length of Leonard’s new contract, much like the team he chooses to sign it with, remains to be seen. He can sign in Toronto for a maximum of five years and $190 million total; he can choose to sign elsewhere for a maximum of four years and $141 million total. (Figures based on current cap projections.) He can choose to sign for fewer years, anywhere (provided that team has the cap space); no matter the years, Toronto can still offer the highest annual salary. (The starting salary, as our cap guru Daniel Hackett figures it, would be in the $32.7 million range.)
And that’s where the second part of Haynes’ tweet comes in.
The infamously stoic Leonard has yet to give any real indication of where he might sign next year; the Raptors and Clippers seem to have been the favourites for some time, but that’s really just been rumours and speculation.
There’s a sense that Haynes, on the other hand, seems to be plugged in, at least as well as anyone can be, to Kawhi’s camp.
Now here’s where you might be thinking, wait, wasn’t this the guy who said Leonard didn’t want to play here? Well, yes:
Kawhi Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto, league source tells ESPN.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 18, 2018
So you may be thinking, hey, I’m not gonna trust anything this guy says! Leonard came here and was awesome! True, but remember: Haynes isn’t, or wasn’t, necessarily wrong in that original tweet from last July. Leonard may not have had any desire to play here at the time! In fact, Leonard’s uncle, Dennis Robertson, pretty much confirmed that report... in an interview with Haynes!
So what to make of the new report from Mr. Haynes? The first part is undoubtedly true. The second? Take it with a giant grain of salt, but understand that, while far from any sort of sure thing, it’s likely the most positive indication we’ve had to date of where Leonard’s mind is at.
Free agency officially begins at 6:00 p.m. on June 30.