After being traded to the Toronto Raptors on July 18, 2018, few could have imagined what Kawhi Leonard and his team would go on to have a magical 2018-19 season. Leonard became an immediate franchise legend for the Raptors, making an All-Star appearance and averaging 26.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
The story became even more magical after Leonard put the Raptors on his back and led them to the first NBA Championship in the franchise’s history after an epic Finals series against the Golden State Warriors. Leonard was named Finals MVP after a monster performance, averaging 28.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in the team’s six-game triumph.
Now, the future is less clear. Leonard is now an unrestricted free agent and can theoretically sign a contract to play for any franchise he chooses for the next season and years beyond that. The soon-to-be 28-year-old has been as guarded and secretive about his future as always, but many believe that Leonard’s future is not in Toronto.
However, Kawhi Leonard’s best option for his future, without a doubt, is to stay in Toronto and go back to the city that lifted the trophy earlier this month. Why?
Well, for one, why fix what isn’t broken? Leonard won the 2019 NBA Title with the Raptors, and the Canadians will return every single member of their roster from last season with the exception of role player Danny Green. While teams like the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers can talk about their financial flexibility to add free agents, there’s already a roster that’s proven to be capable of winning a title in Toronto.
The Los Angeles Clippers appear to be the Raptors’ primary competition for Leonard’s services, and their roster doesn’t come close to stacking up with Toronto’s.
Of course, the issue of money is also in play, but Leonard would benefit financially from staying in Toronto too. The Raptors are the only team that can offer the forward a 5-year, $190 million supermax contract. Other teams can offer Leonard 4 years and $141 million, but for a player with Leonard’s injury history, he would be wise to take the most possible years and the most money that he can.
For these reasons, plus the immense love that Toronto and the country of Canada already has for Kawhi, the Raptors are the best place where Leonard can end up signing a contract. There’s no reason to let the magic end with the 2019 NBA Title—they can accomplish much more together.