Kawhi Leonard's move to the LA Clippers has changed the NBA landscape, with the second Los Angeles team now set to enter next season as title favourites. It is a stark turn in fortunes for a franchise that has long been seen as the 'little brother' to their cross city rivals.
In managing to convince Paul George to join him, Kawhi has moulded a surefire contender. The Clippers have also managed to do it while maintaining their depth, meaning they are perfectly set up for a post season run.
However, there are signs that Kawhi is not finished in applying pressure to the Clippers just yet.
While it had been expected that Leonard would sign a four-year $141million deal with the team, it has emerged today that they have not managed to lock the Finals MVP in for the full four years.
'The Klaw' has instead opted for a three-year $103million contract, which features a player option for the third year. This essentially makes it a two-year pact, with Kawhi having the option to hit the free agency market once again in the summer of 2021.
This is an interesting move from the player. He has had his injury problems over the past few years, and most expected he would take the security that comes with the longer contract.
However, this decision also has its benefits. With the prospect of another free agency looming in only two years, it puts pressure on the Clippers to maintain their investment in the roster. That should not be a problem for franchise owner Steve Ballmer, the Microsoft billionaire who has shown a willingness to throw around some major money.
It also ensures Kawhi can hit the open market at the same time as Paul George, who can opt out after the 20/21 season.
Money does not seem to be the main priority for Leonard, who has now left a staggering amount of cash on the table after leaving San Antonio, and then Toronto.
Re: Kawhi Leonard contract
The most he could earn with LAC in 2021 (if he does not opt-in) is 4/$196M
Because of early bird rights- Leonard is not eligible to sign a 5/$253M contract.
$221M (SAS) to $190M (TOR) to $141M (LAC) to now $103M (LAC)- has left $118M on the table.
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) July 10, 2019
With the Golden State Warriors dynasty now over, next season's NBA seems truly wide open for the first time in a number of years. It should be a belter.