On Monday, the Toronto Raptors celebrated a huge accomplishment, as the city held a championship parade for their recent NBA championship. After years of playoff disappointments, the Raptors climbed the mountain and made history. They won the franchise’s first championship in its 24-year history. While the championship win was a team effort, their success can be attributed to one player: their star forward Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard led the Raptors through the playoffs as they reached the NBA Finals. The Raptors went through teams such as the Orlando Magic, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs. Then, they faced the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. The Raptors beat the Warriors in a 4-2 series and won the championship. Leonard was named Finals MVP after an impressive Finals run.
During the Finals, Leonard averaged 28.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and two steals. His highest scoring game was in Game 4, where he scored 36 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and had four steals. Leonard played well in the Finals, but even better in the Eastern Conference semifinals and Eastern Conference finals. He averaged 34.7 points in the semifinals and 29.8 in the Conference finals.
Leonard was a big part of the Raptors’ success. He played well on both ends of the floor and led the team when it was necessary. Since the Raptors acquired Leonard last summer, he has helped the Raptors get over the hump. Now that the season is over, it is a matter of keeping him.
This summer, Leonard can become a free agent. He has a player option on his current contract and can opt out. If he does so, Leonard can become an unrestricted free agent. So, Leonard’s stint with the Raptors will potentially depend on his decision. He can opt out of the deal and re-sign with the Raptors or opt out and go elsewhere.
At the moment, there are two teams rumored to be the favorites in signing Leonard. Adrian Wojnarowski was a guest on ESPN’s Get Up on Tuesday and revealed Leonard’s preferred destination.
“The reality is Kawhi Leonard’s focus is on Los Angeles, but it’s the Clippers, not the Lakers,” Wojnarowski said.
Wojnarowski also revealed that it will be a Clippers-Raptors fight in the free agency as both teams hope to sign him.
"Kawhi Leonard's focus [is] on Los Angeles, but it's the Clippers not the Lakers."
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) June 18, 2019
Leonard accomplished great things in his short time with the Raptors. While there is a chance he leaves, the Raptors are still the favorites. Regardless of where he lands, Leonard’s decision is going to impact the league.
Featured image courtesy of Rob Carr/Getty Images