NBA Sanctions against L.A. Clippers could be to the Toronto Raptors gain
It is a big if, pending the completion of the NBA’s investigation, which could include waiting for the Johnny Wilkes legal claim to be adjudicated before the NBA acts. If the allegations are true, the Toronto Raptors could benefit.
In the scenario that there is a finding of wrongdoing by Jerry West and or the Clippers and NBA commissioner Adam Silver acts quickly to punish the team, Kawhi Leonard’s two plus one deal with the Clippers could be immediately voided with the Clippers still responsible for his salary this year and thus making Leonard an immediate free agent like a player who was bought out.
Jerry West could be suspended, the Clippers fined millions of dollars, and have future draft picks stripped away. For a team that just gave away five first-round picks and swapped two more in dealing with acquiring Paul George as part of securing Kawhi Leonard’s signature on a contract in 2019, their future would be bleak indeed losing more draft selections and Leonard as well.
The voiding of Kawhi Leonard’s deal would benefit the Toronto Raptors, who have just completed their preseason with a 117-105 loss to the Miami Heat Friday night. Leonard being thrust into free agency midseason would mean any team could acquire his service at the league minimum for the rest of this season, including the Raptors.
In such a scenario, the player makes the same salary with any new team he signs with at 2.3 million for the remainder of the 2020/21 season. The Toronto Raptors would then have the inside track. While California/Los Angeles is Leonard’s favorite destination to play, he would likely prefer a contender, and he was well treated and received by the Toronto Raptors and their fanbase.
It is also a team he would be well familiar with that was accepting of his load management requirements (his Los Angeles teammates were unhappy with his special treatment ). Further, the Raptors are operating in Tampa Bay, a warm-weather destination like Los Angeles for this season. Finally, the Raptors have also retained the core group of players that helped him win a title in 2019 with Toronto.
Even if Leonard does not return to the Toronto Raptors, it’s possible some of the forfeited picks imposed on the Clippers would be given to the Raptors as compensation for the tampering that may have occurred.
As it is, Doc Rivers, then head coach of the Clippers, was fined for discussing Kawhi Leonard during the 2019 Playoffs while he was competing for the Toronto Raptors.
If Adam Silver sees this situation in a similar light to the debacle that was the Joe Smith signing by the Minnesota Timberwolves, it’s bad news for the Clippers. In 1999, general manager Kevin McHale’s under the table agreement to acquire Smith’s Bird Rights circumvented the NBA CBA by signing Smith to a series of three one year deals and then planned in year four to grant the player a multi-year multi-million dollar deal. The Raptors could be rewarded a windfall for allowing their superstar player to walk in 2019.