Toronto Raptors: Clippers not giving up on Kawhi Leonard

DENVER, COLORADO - DECEMBER 16: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors drives around Torrey Craig #3 of the Denver Nuggets in the first quarter at thePepsi Center on December 16, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - DECEMBER 16: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors drives around Torrey Craig #3 of the Denver Nuggets in the first quarter at thePepsi Center on December 16, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

Toronto Raptors’ chances of keeping Kawhi Leonard past this season are reportedly at 50-50, as the Los Angeles Clippers remain firmly on the radar.

The Toronto Raptors have been delighted with how Kawhi Leonard has performed so far this season. He leads the team in average points and boards per game, which are also on course to be personal career-bests.

Leonard has played a significant role in taking the Raptors’ defensive ability to another level. And most importantly of all, he has helped the team rise to the top of the NBA standings.

Of course, all of this is being played out against the uncertainty regarding the 27-year-old’s future in Toronto. Will he still be in a Raptors uniform come the start of the 2019-20 campaign?

The truth is there is no way of knowing for sure at this stage. However, this hasn’t stymied the ongoing rumors.

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In this respect, there has been further speculation this week about the Clippers’ interest in Leonard. In fact, their interest has even being described as bordering on obsession.

As reported by Chris Crouse of Hoops Rumors, Raptors officials previously claimed a Clippers’ employee has attended around 75 percent of their games this season.  Another source suggests that it is closer to 25 percent.

Whatever the case, you can certainly appreciate why the Clippers would like to sign the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. And the interest is apparently mutual.

It has long been assumed the Los Angeles native wants to return home. And with the widely held belief he does not want to play second string to LeBron James, this is why the Clippers seemingly have the edge over the Lakers.

The Raptors are doing everything within their power to persuade Leonard to stay in Toronto past this season. However, if he’s got his heart set on going to Los Angeles, it is irrelevant.

Could a deep playoff run and even a trip to the NBA Finals convince the 2011 first round draft pick to remain in Southern Ontario? It’s conceivable and, as per Crouse, one source believes the chances of him staying in Toronto are rated at 50-50.

Now admittedly, saying there’s a 50 percent chance of something happening, isn’t exactly sticking your neck on the line. In reality though, this is arguably a best case scenario for the Raptors.

Most signs point towards Leonard not picking up his $21.3 million player option for next season, instead becoming a free agent. At this point, he will be able to sit back and watch all the offers coming in from interested parties, which will include the Raptors and Clippers.

Toronto is often referred to as one of the favorite destinations for NBA players, when they travel during the regular season. However, there is a big difference between visiting a city and living there.

ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski believes this will factor into Leonard’s decision. Wojnarowski said:

"“They can’t change the geography. They can’t change the weather in Toronto. Those were always be things against them in this. Home and L.A. has been the focus for Kawhi Leonard through all of this.”"

From our perspective, the weather issue is often overhyped when it comes to professional athletes playing in Canada. Leonard himself downplayed this issue, as reported by Kurt Helin of NBC Sports:

"“Just wear a jacket. We’re in a building. We’re not outside playing in the snow. And it’s good scenery.”"

Admittedly though, Leonard wouldn’t be likely to come out and slate Toronto, even if he did have an issue with the climate. And at the end of the day, no matter how much we think the weather issue is exaggerated, it will still be a factor to some extent.

Overall, the only things we know for sure are that Leonard is a fantastic player who will receive a lot of attention in the summer, he will sign a max deal contract for next season and Los Angeles is warmer than Toronto. Other than that, no one knows how this whole storyline will play out at this stage; arguably not even Leonard himself.

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Are you paying any attention to the continued speculation regarding Kawhi’s future? How confident are you he will still be with the Toronto Raptors when the 2019-20 campaign begins? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.