Ever since last summer, the prevailing train of thought has been that Kawhi Leonard will head to Los Angeles when he becomes a free agent this summer.
While the Lakers might have been seen as the early frontrunners to sign Leonard, the Clippers have emerged as the most viable candidate, as they can offer the 2014 NBA Finals MVP the chance to play for a functional organization in his hometown without all the drama that comes with playing alongside LeBron James.
That being said, you can't count the Toronto Raptors out of the running, can you? Leonard has had a great first season north of the border, and there's a possibility the Raptors could win the East and play for the NBA title. Would Leonard really leave a team that's as set up for long-term success as the Raptors are?
While you might think he'd be crazy to leave what could be a perennial NBA Finals contender, that apparently isn't the feeling of some in the Toronto locker room, according to Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus.
In an article about the Clippers and their comeback win over the Warriors in Game 2 of their first-round NBA playoff series, Pincus talked to a former player who said Leonard's teammates don't get the feeling he's sticking around.
"One former player said Leonard's teammates expect him to leave for Los Angeles after the season, although he didn't specify which franchise," Pincus writes.
Of course, Leonard won't be the only marquee free agent on the market this offseason, with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and Klay Thompson all likely to be available. While Durant and Irving could choose to opt into the final year of their respective contracts, it seems like a near certainty that both players will opt out and test the market.
Should Leonard leave Toronto for the glitz and glamor of Los Angeles, no matter the team, the power dynamic in the Western Conference will tilt away from the Warriors, especially if Durant and/or Thompson elect to leave the Bay this summer.
Despite the apparent attempt to miss the playoffs, the Clippers ended up winning 48 games even after trading away Tobias Harris at the deadline, and have played the Warriors tough through the first two games of their playoff series. Adding Leonard to the mix would make the collection of role players assembled by Lawrence Frank, Jerry West and Doc Rivers all the more dangerous.
While the Lakers currently seem like a long shot to land Leonard, putting one of the best two-way players in the NBA next to James and the Lakers' crop of young talent would vault them back up the Western Conference hierarchy. At least, in theory.
If Durant leaves the Warriors and Leonard joins one of the L.A. teams, the Western Conference will be more wide open than it has been in the last five seasons.
Buckle up, it's going to be a wild summer.