Reports: Kawhi Leonard to sign with Los Angeles Clippers

Sportsnet's Michael Grange breaks down how the Paul George trade was the key to Kawhi Leonard signing with Clippers.

Kawhi Leonard is set to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, according to multiple reports.

After days of speculation and rumoured meetings with the Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors, news of Leonard’s decision broke in the early hours of Saturday morning.

According to Wojnarowski, Leonard’s deal with the Clippers is at four years and $142 million. The NBA Finals MVP could have signed for more money and term had he chosen to stay with the Raptors, who were able to offer $190 million over five years.

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Per @wojespn, Kawhi Leonard will sign a 4-year/$142M max contract with @laclippers #KawhiWatch

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The Clippers then reportedly pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder shortly thereafter, acquiring Paul George in exchange for multiple players and a record number of draft picks.

That acquisition reportedly made the difference. Wojnarowski stated that it was “unlikely” that Leonard would have committed to the Clippers if they didn’t pull off the trade for George.

Leonard waded into the 2019 off-season as one of the top unrestricted free agents on the market after playing one season with the Toronto Raptors in which he averaged 26.6 points and 7.3 rebounds on 49.6-per cent shooting through 60 games played. That sterling campaign helped lead Toronto to its first-ever NBA title, earning Leonard his second Finals MVP in the process.

The 28-year-old came to the Raptors from the San Antonio Spurs — in the blockbuster deal that sent former franchise icon DeMar DeRozan headed west — under contract for the 2018-19 season with a player option on his contract for 2019-20, which Leonard declined.

Leonard finished the 2018-19 campaign with the sixth-highest points per game pace in the league. He added 732 total points over the course of Toronto’s post-season run — with that high-water mark ranking as the most of any 2019 post-season player, the most in Raptors franchise history, and the third-most all-time in NBA history (trailing only Michael Jordan’s 759 in 1992 and LeBron James’ 748 in 2018).

In doing so, Leonard became the 12th player in league history to win multiple Finals MVP awards, and just the third to earn a Finals MVP nod with multiple teams.

On Saturday afternoon, Raptors president Masai Ujiri issued a statement thanking Leonard and Danny Green, who reportedly left the Raptors for the Lakers on Saturday.

“We are very thankful for the year that Kawhi and Danny played with us here in Toronto, and I know the city and the entire country of Canada are grateful for everything they did to help us to win our first NBA championship,” the statement said. “On behalf of the Raptors, I say a very heartfelt thank you to Kawhi and to Danny, and we send them and their families nothing but good wishes.

“As an organization, the Raptors will focus on the future and continue our pursuit of a second championship.”

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