The Kawhi Leonard-Toronto Raptors marriage might not be a one-year fling after all.
Yahoo's Chris Haynes reported Sunday that the 2019 NBA Finals MVP will decline his $21.3 million player option for the 2019-20 season, but that Leonard is "seriously considering re-signing with the Raptors."
Most experts have been predicting that Leonard will bolt Toronto for one of the Los Angeles teams. But Haynes' reporting changes things a bit.
Haynes also reported that rival front-office executives view the Raptors as the favorites to land Leonard.
The Raptors can offer Leonard a five-year, $190 million contract, according to Haynes.
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While the Warriors likely aren't in the mood for any Kawhi-related news, considering he just ended their bid for a three-peat, they have to be excited at the thought of Leonard not joining the Pacific Division.
Leonard put on a dominating performance against the Warriors in the NBA Finals, as he averaged 28.5 points and 9.8 rebounds over the six games.
James Harden scored 29 points on 16 field-goal attempts the last time the Warriors faced the Houston Rockets back on Feb. 20. Houston won that game 135-105, and it sounds like Golden State's Juan Toscano-Anderson was looking forward to the rematch.
With the NBA season indefinitely suspended due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Toscano-Anderson and the Warriors have some free time on their hands. Toscano-Anderson made use of it by holding a Q&A on Twitter on Saturday night, at which time he was asked which player -- whether teammate or opponent -- he was most looking forward to playing with or against when the season starts back up.
Toscano-Anderson provided multiple answers.
"Excited to get our whole team back to full strength," Toscano-Anderson replied. "I was very excited to guard James Harden."
Well, you've got to appreciate the fact that he's not afraid of a challenge. There might not be a tougher player to guard than Harden in the entire league, but then again, Toscano-Anderson didn't finally establish himself as an NBA player this season by taking the easy way out.
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The Warriors and Rockets were scheduled to play each other for a fourth and final time this season in Houston on April 2. Obviously, that particular game won't take place on that day, but whether it is postponed or canceled, Toscano-Anderson surely will have more opportunities to try to make things harder on Harden.
The Warriors don't know if or when the current NBA season will resume, much less the next one. But whenever the 2020-21 season takes place, they'll likely have used several assets at their disposal with which to return to a level of legitimate contention.
But in terms of the Warriors' asset that likely will have the greatest determining impact on their success next season, the $17.2 million trade exception they received for sending Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies last summer stands apart from the rest.
Trade exceptions cannot be combined with others, so through the Iguodala trade exception, Golden State cannot acquire a player making more than $17.2 million (technically, it's $17,185,185.) However, trade exceptions can be split, so the Warriors could theoretically use the Iguodala trade exception to acquire multiple players, as long as their combined salaries don't exceed that amount.
While Golden State should absolutely be able to acquire a good player with that trade exception, the Dubs will have the added challenge of only having a tight window with which to use it. Once the league moratorium concludes at noon ET on July 6 (as currently scheduled), the Warriors will only have until the end of the following day to utilize the exception in a trade. They cannot use it prior to the moratorium, though in theory, they could agree to a trade at any point along the way.
Given the indefinite league stoppage due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it's possible that Golden State will be granted some kind of an extension to use the Iguodala trade exception, but there is no guarantee. Whenever it expires, however, the Warriors would be wise to use it on one of the following seven players prior to that point.