The Toronto Raptors might’ve exited the championship picture a long time ago, but Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers have officially joined the Raptors despite a surprising run to the Western Conference Finals. Against Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton, a deep Suns team was too much to handle, and Phoenix beat them in six games.
While Leonard was the big piece that helped Toronto bring home their first championship in franchise history, his tenure with the Raptors lasted just one season, as he turned down a lucrative five-year. $190 million contract with Toronto in order to return to his native Southern California, team up with Paul George, and lead the Clippers.
While it was widely expected that he would opt-out of the final year of his contract in order to earn one last big deal, and his production hasn’t dipped one bit in LA, there are some rumblings that he could bolt amid strife with the Clippers’ medical staff. The Heat and Mavericks will reportedly keep an eye on him.
After two years in Los Angeles, Leonard doesn’t even have one championship appearance to this name, a slew of new injuries, and, potentially, the desire to once again uproot himself. Toronto would’ve given him a better situation if he stayed. If he doesn’t dominate the league individually by winning an MVP or collectively by getting another ring, was his time in LA a flop?
Kawhi Leonard shouldn’t have left the Toronto Raptors.
Assuming that this season was a complete lost cause because of playing in Tampa, last year provided a clear example of where Leonard would’ve benefitted the Raptors. A team that earned the No. 2 seed in the East lost in the conference semifinals that was watching Pascal Siakam struggle in the bubble could’ve used Kawhi’s clutch scoring.
As great a player and locked in of a competitor he is, Leonard has had (justifiable) problems with San Antonio’s medical staff, and there are rumblings that he has a similar distrust in what the Clippers’ staff is doing. Did we hear a peep out of him about this in Toronto?
Leonard could justify his decision with an MVP, proving that going to LA was the best for his individual brand of basketball, or by taking home a title with his third different franchise. Without it, he might start to regret choosing Cali over Canada.
Kawhi may not care about this. He’s got his money and championships, so playing in his hometown for a team that can still contend isn’t a bad option. However, if he stuck around in Toronto and leaned on their roster, coaching, and strong organizational structure, it might’ve helped him get more individual and team-related accolades.