NBA free agency is still six months away, but it already sounds like the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes are down to just a pair of teams.
According to Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com, league executives believe that Leonard will either decide to stay with the Toronto Raptors or sign with the hometown Los Angeles Clippers.
Leonard was widely linked to the Clippers once he requested a trade from the San Antonio Spurs. However, L.A. didn't have the necessary assets to orchestrate a trade, so the Raptors swooped in with the best offer and acquired Leonard instead.
It's widely believed that Leonard wants to go play for the Clippers since he would be close to home, and part of a big market team. He was also tied to the Lakers, but Leonard apparently doesn't have any interest in playing alongside LeBron James.
But the Raptors have given Leonard good reason to consider staying here. For one, they own the second-best record in the NBA - only behind the Milwaukee Bucks. Leonard is part of a championship caliber team, and with the Golden State Warriors dynasty showing cracks, the path to a title might alredy be there for the Raptors.
The Raptors have also done their part in treating Leonard with the utmost respect, something he didn't get in San Antonio. He's been given the rest when necessary, and the fans in Toronto have constantly chanted "MVP," during his free throw attempts.
Toronto isn't as big as Los Angeles, but it's still a great market and lovable city filled with a passionate fanbase. Leonard might find it difficult to leave all of this behind just to play in Los Angeles - where the Clippers are far from ready to contend for a title.
What This Means
The Raptors have already done just about everything they could in order to convince Leonard that he should stay. While they continue to vie for a championship, Toronto can only hold their breath and pray that Leonard decides to stay after a phenomenal first year with his new team.