Amidst the reports on Kawhi Leonard’s status with the San Antonio Spurs, when can he hit free agency?
Since he last played on on Jan. 13, Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs became prominent parts of the NBA media, in a rare situation that involved this organization: controversy. It surrounded the quad injury that has plagued Leonard since the preseason, with speculation on how it will impact his future.
Why a concern about Leonard’s future? He can hit free agency after the 2018-19 season, which seems far away but only means he will be in a Spurs uniform for just over one season, pending the team does not trade him before July 1, 2019.
Leonard’s contract runs through 2019-20, but on a player option for $21.3 million. Given the money Stephen Curry, James Harden and Russell Westbrook received, all of which were over $200 million, it’s hard to believe the “Klaw” will wait another season to make an average annual value of at least $30 million.
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As Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders noted, Leonard can sign a max contract worth more than $250 million as soon as this offseason. Quad injury that sidelined him for all but nine games or not, it’s money for someone who just felt a $20 million per year contract from the Jordan Brand was not enough, according to ESPN. If the Spurs go any lower than this potential max deal for their star, will it muddle the situation?
No Spurs fan wants to picture their team without Leonard, who grew into the replacement face of the franchise for the retired Tim Duncan and the aging Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. It’s not the same NBA anymore, though, with contracts higher than anything seen this millennium, if Kobe Bryant’s outlier salary of $30 million that exceeded everyone’s in 2012-13 counts.
It’s possible Leonard becomes one of the NBA’s highest-paid players, if not the highest. The situation could develop this summer or play into yet another star free-agent dilemma in 2019.