Where Will The Claw Go?
After a bitter end to a great season for Kawhi Leonard, “The Claw” enters this offseason as an unrestricted free agent.
After starting off the postseason losing two home games against The Dallas Mavericks, many already anticipated that Kawhi would leave after an early first-round exit. Thankfully for The Clippers, they were able to come back and win that series to advance to the second round against The Utah Jazz.
It was that series, when Kawhi Leonard partially tore his ACL in Game 4. It was a devastating blow for him and the entire team.
Interestingly enough, The Clippers managed to beat The Jazz without Kawhi and advanced to their first-ever Western Conference Finals.
The Clippers fought hard against The Phoenix Suns, but ultimately lost in six games. Below are the top three most likely destinations for Kawhi heading into next year:
Los Angeles Clippers (3/2 Odds)
Considering the amount of success The Clippers had even after Leonard went down, you have to believe that Kawhi must be feeling better about his supporting cast than he has ever before.
Last year in the bubble, Los Angeles blew a 3-1 lead to The Denver Nuggets in the Conference Semi-Finals, which was a terrible look for the team. They came back this season and seemed to have more composure even when things did not go their way.
That may have to do a lot with their new coach Tyrone Lue, who Leonard has seemed to grow admiration for.
Lue has a tendency to calm his guys down and make all the right adjustments when necessary. Former coach Doc Rivers failed to do that last year with the team, and failed again this year with The 76ers as well.
Paul George also played great basketball in Leonard’s absence which shows his growth as a player. If Leonard had not gotten hurt, who knows how far The Clippers could have gone.
Considering all those factors, it is no surprise that The Clippers have the best odds to bring back Leonard compared to any other team.
New York Knicks (5/2 Odds)
After a magical season for The New York Knicks, they have finally reached relevancy for the first time since the Carmelo Anthony/Amar’e Stoudemire era.
Newly instilled coach, Tom Thibodeau, built an extremely positive culture led by The Most Improved Player of the year Julius Randle. Guys like veteran Derrick Rose and RJ Barrett also had great seasons while the entire team around them bought in.
To help lure Leonard in, it does not hurt that their team is based in the bright lights of New York. Many stars in the past have a tendency to join big market teams in major cities. Look at LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving for example.
If The Knicks had been good the previous year, I would not have been surprised at all if Durant and Irving would have picked New York over Brooklyn. The Nets were the pick since they were the more stable team at the time.
Do not be surprised if Leonard shocks the world and chooses the bright lights of New York as his next destination.
Dallas Mavericks (3/1 Odds)
The Dallas Mavericks are a team with arguably the greatest young star in all of basketball. If winning is Kawhi’s main priority, The Mavericks would be a great team to pick. After all, Luka Doncic almost took out Leonard’s Clippers single handingly.
Led by new coach Jason Kidd, I expect a better player/coach dynamic than the one Rick Carlisle had instilled with his guys. This could be a great selling point for the team.
Dallas is a place where Leonard can win multiple championships with. Doncic is only 22 years old and is only getting better.
The one thing that could stop Leonard from going there is if he is willing to be ok with “sharing” the spotlight, something he has not been accustomed to doing ever since he left San Antonio. I imagine there may be a power struggle as to who’s team it truly is.
If he can put aside his ego, however, I see this being the best duo in all of basketball.