With several days of NBA free agency already past and many big name free agents already signed, there is one superstar free agent who has yet to decide on where he will be playing in the years to come- 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. While it is very possible that Kawhi would like to run it back with the Toronto Raptors, more opportunities and potential rings may lie on a team such as the Los Angeles Lakers.
With Anthony Davis recently being added to the Lakers’ roster, the Lakers cut out its young and inexperienced players and replaced them with a 6x NBA All-Star who averages over 30 points a game in playoffs. Through the AD trade, the Lakers are clearly no longer in “rebuild mode” and are trying to make a deep run in the playoffs. If Kawhi signs with the Lakers this would form potentially one of the strongest and most experienced front courts (and Big 3s) in the League. This supporting cast would be able to help Kawhi in playoffs more than Siakam and Lowry, whom, while they both played a large role in the Finals, demanded more of Kawhi physically and relied on him to remain the workhorse of the team. With Lebron and AD as his teammates, Kawhi would not have to carry all of the load for his team which would lessen the risk of physical strain and injury. This Big 3 could turn into a problem for other teams and might be even stronger than the newly formed Big 3 in Brooklyn consisting of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Deandre Jordan.
Additionally, if Kawhi signs with the Lakers, his chances of making it far in the playoffs would be higher as the Western Conference is relatively open. This is because the West’s biggest powerhouse, the Warriors, has split up as Durant will be moving to the East to play on the Nets and Klay Thompson will be out the majority of next year (due to a torn ACL suffered in this year’s playoffs). Also, if Kawhi moves to the West, he won’t have to worry about the young and growing forces of the 76ers and the Bucs until the Finals. Playing in the Western Conference will greatly increase Kawhi’s chances of having repeat appearances in the Finals and ensures exciting basketball in both conferences.
Lastly, if Kawhi goes to Los Angeles, he would be able to have more of a connection to a city environment than when he was in Toronto. Kawhi never had a strong connection to Toronto or even Canada; after a game 4 victory in the Finals, he was asked what an NBA title would mean for the city of Toronto and he responded “I’m not really sure… You gotta ask a fan or someone in Canada, somebody who’s been living in Canada for a while.” This shows that Kawhi never really integrated himself into the city very well and that he feels distant from his Canadian fans. Due to the circumstances that led Kawhi to play for the Raptors and how he had little say in where he went, Kawhi may have the desire to play for his own city where he grew up — Los Angeles. The Lakers have a large fanbase and Kawhi would be well received if he joined. The city of LA is also a lively city that has its own culture that Kawhi can embrace. By signing with the Lakers, Kawhi would be able to play for his hometown and not have to feel disconnected from his fans cheering for him.
If Kawhi commits to the Lakers it will lead to exciting basketball for years to come as he would team up with an all-time great in LeBron James and one of the best bigs in the League in Anthony Davis. By signing with the Lakers, Kawhi would be able to set himself up for more deep runs in the playoffs and could play for a city and fanbase that he enjoys.