Kawhi Leonard free agency rumors: Raptors superstar expected to seriously consider re-signing with Toronto
Leonard will be in high demand in free agency over the summer, but may end up not going anywhere
Kawhi Leonard's time in Toronto could end up lasting longer than a single season. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the future free agent could now be seriously considering re-signing with the Raptors over the offseason.
The Raptors acquired Leonard -- and Danny Green -- in July in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick. Leonard has a player option worth $21 million for the 2019-20 season that he is expected to turn down in favor of unrestricted free agency this summer.
From Wojnarowski, via Real GM:
"Kawhi Leonard just felt all along, it was going to take the full year to sell him on Toronto," Wojnarowski said. "It wasn't going to be done in training camp or by Christmas or by the trade deadline. But I do think they've made progress with him. I do think they've made pretty good progress with him from the sense I have. They put themselves in it. And when Kawhi showed up there, I'm not sure he imagined any future in Toronto. I do think it's a serious consideration now.
"Certainly the winning and development of [Pascal] Siakam. I think he's built a good relationship with Kyle Lowry. Neither one is easy to get close to. Two guys who don't let a lot of people in and then you put them together, right?
"And Nick Nurse has grown this year as he's gone.
"I think the Kawhi thing is getting really interesting there. For them to just get through this series and get to a conference final, every day is the case you're making. And, oh by the way, 'we can pay you more than anybody else. If you want to be in L.A. and you want to live there in the offseason, there's only so many days you really have to be in Toronto in the snow. You can get out of here. You're on the road half the time. The rest of the year, you can get out of here and go in L.A. and be in California.'
"But Toronto is selling winning on him. They can't sell geography to him, I don't think. I don't think they can't sell weather on him. There's nothing they can do about that. When you have that kind of organization, you sell winning and again, the chance to make the most money."
For what it's worth, the Raptors remain confident that they will be able to convince Leonard to remain in Toronto long-term. Raptors president Masai Ujiri thinks that the allure of the city of Toronto combined with the on-court success of the Raptors with Leonard on the roster will sway the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year to remain in Toronto.
"I think there's a lot to sell here," Ujiri said at a press conference in July after the Raptors had acquired Leonard. "Our team, our culture, our city, our ownership, we have everything here except a championship, in my humble opinion. I don't think we lack anything in this city. We have great fans, we have a great organization, we have a great following. I think we have a great country. There is something about this place that reaches out to the whole world and we're proud of that and we're going to continue to sell that. Hopefully it's an appeal, not only to him but to more NBA players."
Leonard was very good for Toronto during the regular season, but he has been downright dominant during the postseason. His numbers have jumped from 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game during the regular season to 32.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per performance during the playoffs.
There will be no shortage of suitors for Leonard's services, but the Raptors appear to at least be on the short list of legitimate candidates.
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