NBA Rumors: Clippers in no hurry to extend Kawhi Leonard
The Los Angeles Clippers are approaching a serious inflection point as a franchise. With the new arena set to open in 2024, both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have the option to hit free agency next summer. Leonard’s player option worth $48.8 million could be tempting for a player with his injury history, but one has to imagine teams the league over will line up to offer Leonard long(er)-term money.
It would appear, however, that the Clippers are taking the patient approach. According to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, “there is no rush on an extension for Kawhi Leonard.” The Clippers have the ability to offer both Leonard and George five-year max contracts, but Los Angeles must be wary given the age and durability concerns tied to both stars.
This is ultimately a very serious risk for the Clippers. Leonard hasn’t played 60 regular season games since 2018-19, but he’s still one of the best players in the world when healthy. Leonard was in peak form late last season and into the playoffs before another untimely knee injury removed him from the Clippers’ first-round series against Phoenix.
The Clippers are currently in the running for James Harden, but haggling over price could cost them the opportunity to pair three of the league’s top 20 players. If Los Angeles fumbles Harden and then doesn’t extend Kawhi or George, there’s a non-zero chance the team ends up in full rebuild mode when the new arena opens next season. One has to imagine Steve Balmer and ownership would like to avoid such circumstances. Leonard still sells tickets, and he still represents the Clippers’ best chance to compete for a title in the immediate future.
Leonard might be the least reliable superstar in the NBA because of health, but he is still a superstar. With two Finals MVP awards on his résumé, there aren’t many more accomplished postseason operators in the league. Los Angeles should get serious about Leonard extension talks as the fall deadline gets closer.