Despite some early rumblings about Kawhi Leonard listening to other teams in free agency, there was never much doubt about where he would land.
The two-time NBA Finals MVP will be re-signing with the Clippers, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. Los Angeles gives Leonard the ability to compete for championships in the near future while staying in his preferred city.
One big question does remain, though: What kind of contract will Leonard choose to sign? Haynes reported Friday that terms of the deal are still being finalized, and as of Tuesday afternoon no additional details have been revealed.
Leonard has good reasons to push for either a short-term or long-term deal, so let’s take a look at the cases for both.
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Kawhi Leonard long-term contract
Had he picked up his $36 million player option and signed a four-year, $181.5 million extension, Leonard could have earned a total of $217.5 million through the 2025-26 season. He declined that option, however, making him an unrestricted free agent.
That door is closed, but Leonard could still sign a new four-year deal worth $176.2 million that would keep him in Los Angeles through the 2024-25 season. (The Clippers only have Early Bird rights on Leonard, so their offer cannot exceed four seasons.)
If Leonard is at all concerned about his health status after undergoing surgery to repair a partially torn ACL and wants to lock in that money now, this is the way to go. This would also help the Clippers from a team-building perspective, as they would know both Leonard and Paul George, who signed a massive extension in December, will be leading the franchise over the next few years.
Kawhi Leonard short-term contract
If Leonard doesn’t choose that path, he could elect to sign a one-plus-one contract. In that case, he would agree to a two-year, $80.6 million deal with a player option for the second season.
Why would the 30-year-old not just happily accept the extra $95.6 million now? Well, he could make a lot more money later.
Assuming he declines the player option in 2022, Leonard would be in position to sign a five-year, $235 million contract, which would be the largest deal in NBA history. Yeah, that sounds pretty good.
There is risk involved, of course. If Leonard doesn’t fully recover from his ACL injury and can’t perform at an All-NBA level, it may give the Clippers pause. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that Los Angeles has invested heavily in the Leonard-George duo and doesn’t have the assets to rebuild if it loses Leonard.