Kawhi Leonard has remained silent on his plans for next season, but with the two-time NBA Finals MVP set to become an unrestricted free agent the odds of him returning to the Toronto Raptors have vaulted to a short -225 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Leonard reportedly expressed little interest in making the move to Toronto last summer after being acquired along with Danny Green in a deal that shipped Raptors fan favourite DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs. But after leading the Raptors to their first NBA championship in franchise history, Leonard has stuck around town.
The 27-year-old made a surprise appearance when the Toronto Blue Jays played the Los Angeles Angels last week, and he has reportedly engaged in talks on sponsorship deals with multiple Toronto-area companies.
While that has fuelled speculation that the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year is set to re-sign with the Raptors, a number of other factors are likely to influence Leonard’s ultimate decision to stay north of the border.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri was unequivocal in his response earlier this week when asked about his future plans. Now the most highly sought after executive in basketball, Ujiri talked about the importance of his family’s happiness, including his two Canadian-born children, while reiterating his long-term commitment to Toronto.
In addition, a decision by Leonard to stay in Toronto would likely influence the off-season decisions of other members of this season’s NBA championship squad, most notably Green and Marc Gasol.
Winner of the 2014 NBA championship alongside Leonard in San Antonio, Green was reportedly key in convincing Leonard to report to Toronto following last summer’s trade. The 32-year-old shooting guard is set to hit the UFA market next month but has been vocal about his desire to stay with the Raptors.
The 2013 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Gasol can also elect to opt out of his contract on July 1, but the opportunity to defend an NBA title alongside Leonard may be all that it takes to keep the big man in Toronto.
With the odds now favouring Leonard re-signing with Toronto, the Raptors have made steady gains on the 2020 NBA championship odds since opening at a lengthy +1000, and now sit second only to the surprising Los Angeles Lakers as a +600 wager.
The Los Angeles Clippers remain the +175 second favourite to bring Leonard back to his hometown, well ahead of the Lakers at +800, and the New York Knicks at +1400, while the Brooklyn Nets lag at +1600 on those NBA odds.