NBA: Leonard 'seriously considering' returning to Raptors -- report

Field Level Media/Reuters

Posted at Jun 24 2019 12:51 PM

Toronto Raptors basketball player Kawhi Leonard hold his MVP trophy during the Raptors victory parade after defeating the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 NBA Finals, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada June 17, 2019. Moe Doiron, Reuters

NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard will decline his player option with the Toronto Raptors but is "seriously considering" returning to the NBA champs, Yahoo Sports reported Sunday night.

Leonard was always expected to decline his $21.3 million option, which would be the final year of a five-year, $94.3 million deal he signed with the San Antonio Spurs, who traded him to Toronto last summer. 

He has until June 29 -- his 28th birthday -- to opt out.

Leonard, a native of Los Angeles, reportedly has interest in joining the L.A. Clippers, and the New York Knicks are expected to make a push if Leonard becomes a free agent.

"The appeal of returning home to Southern California is enticing to the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year," wrote Yahoo's Chris Haynes, "but with the trust the Raptors built while Leonard led the franchise to its first NBA title by upsetting the Golden State Warriors, rival executives view his current team as the favorite to land him when the free-agent negotiating period begins June 30, sources said."

The Raptors are the only team that can offer a max deal of five years and $190 million, about $15 million more over the course of the deal that Leonard could get from any other team. 

ESPN reported last week that Leonard also could be weighing short-term offers that allow him to return to free agency in two or three years, similar to the approach LeBron James has taken to free agency.

Leonard averaged a career-high 26.6 points last season and scored a total of 732 points in the postseason -- third most all-time. 

He won his second Finals MVP -- he also won in 2014 with the Spurs -- as the Raptors took down the Warriors in six games.

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