Kawhi Leonard contract details, grade: Clippers take a risk and sign their star

The Los Angeles Clippers have inked Kawhi Leonard to a three-year extension worth $152.4 million. These are all the details, ramifications, and grade for the deal.

Los Angeles Clippers v Indiana Pacers
Los Angeles Clippers v Indiana Pacers / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Clippers and Kawhi Leonard have agreed to a new three-year extension for $152.4 million. The deal is reported to be fully guaranteed and will keep Leonard with the Clippers through the 2026-27 season, covering his age 33 through 35 seasons.

Kawhi Leonard extension details

Leonard was in the final year of his deal before a $48.7 million player option. His new contract will not see him opt-in and extend off his player option. Leonard's per-season salary has not been released, but the average annual value of his three-year extension is $50.8 million. He was eligible to receive a four-year extension worth up to $224 million.

Leonard has been sensational over his past 17 games, averaging 26.9 points per game on 56.4 percent shooting, and has helped guide the Clippers to fourth in the Western Conference at 23-13, including a 15-3 record over the past 18 games.

Paul George is also in contract negotiations with the Clippers over an extension. He and Leonard have the same 2023-24 salary at $45.6 million and an identical $48.7 million player option for 2024-25. It wouldn't be surprising to see him land a nearly identical extension.

Kawhi Leonard extension grade

Based on its average annual value, Kawhi Leonard's extension with the Clippers will see him be the sixth highest-paid player in the league in 2024-25. However, Leonard's contract will likely escalate off his 2024-25 salary, and he'll make around the $48.7 million his player option was worth.

When healthy and right, Leonard is still a top-10 player in the NBA. He's averaging 23.8 points per game this season on a career-best effective field goal percentage of 58.4 percent and has been even better over the past 20 games. However, the when healthy part cannot be overlooked.

Since 2021-22, Leonard has played a total of 82 games and hasn't eclipsed 70 games in a season since 2016-17 when he was a San Antonio Spur. In that span, he has suffered a quad tendon injury, an ACL tear, and, most recently, a meniscus injury. Leonard has been mostly healthy this season, but his availability will continue to be a concern.

While Leonard remains excellent when he's on the court, the fact remains the Clippers are signing up for his decline phase. As great as LeBron James still is, he was better at 35 than he is now and even better at 30. The Clippers are now on the hook for $152.4 million for Leonard's age 33 through 35 seasons.

Considering Leonard could have gotten four-years for $224 million from the Clippers, his entire deal being guaranteed feels like a compromise. Overall, the Clippers deserve a B- for the Kawhi Leonard extension. They didn't get a discount for an aging and injury-prone player, and outside of not giving him four years, Leonard got just about everything he wanted.

However, the Clippers really had no choice but to try and retain him. Without Leonard this season, the Clippers are 2-2 with a negative point differential and look like real contenders when James Harden, Paul George, and Leonard are on the court. The Clippers are also opening a state-of-the-art stadium, the Intuit Dome, in 2024, and can now say that Kawhi Leonard will be there to christen it.

Grade: B-

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