Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard has declined his $21.3 million player option and will become an unrestricted free agent. The news was first reported by Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports.
Kawhi Leonard Declines Player Option, Will Test Free Agency
The move comes as no surprise, and in no way implies he will be leaving the NBA Champion Toronto Raptors. In fact, it is also being reported that Leonard is “seriously considering” returning to his championship squad.
Yahoo Sources: Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard declining $21.3 million player option to become unrestricted free agent with the Finals MVP seriously considering re-signing. https://t.co/cWhpcyyjXO pic.twitter.com/c8qNBOi0Nu
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 23, 2019
Financially, the move is overwhelmingly in Leonard’s favor. He is eligible to sign a contract that would pay him roughly $30 million next season thanks to his “7-9 year veteran” status. The status allows players to earn up to 30 percent of a teams’ salary cap. Opting into the player option would thus cost the superstar around $9 million.
Though he will not be eligible for a “supermax” extension due to the trade that sent him to Toronto, he can still make more money on a deal with the Raptors. The reigning champions can offer a five-year deal with an annual eight percent increase. If Leonard signs with any other team, they can only offer four years with a five percent yearly bump.
There has been speculation that Leonard will sign a short-term deal with the Raptors this summer. The move could potentially leave him with a chance to sign a long-term deal once he reaches “10+ year veteran” status. Then, Leonard would be eligible to receive up to 35 percent of the salary cap, thus maximizing his potential earnings.
Leonard is the only player in NBA history to win Finals MVP in both the Eastern and Western Conferences. His orchestrated one of the greatest stories in NBA history with a remarkable run through the 2019 playoffs, earning the Raptors their first title along the way. He dominated the postseason, and now he will also dominate the headlines of free agency.
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