Los Angeles Clippers

How Kawhi Leonard's player option decision could impact his future earnings with the LA Clippers

LA Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard has a decision to make this offseason.

Having signed a two-plus-one deal with the Clippers in 2019, Leonard has a player option in his contract worth $36.0 million for the 2021-22 season. If he picks it up, he will return to the Clippers next season and be an unrestricted free agent in 2022. If he declines it, he will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

As noted by ESPN's Bobby Marks, the deadline for Leonard is Aug. 1.

Leonard talked about his contract status with the Clippers earlier this season.

"Obviously, if I'm healthy, the best decision is to decline the player option," he said. "But that doesn't mean I'm leaving or staying. I'm focused on the season, like I said. We'll talk about that when the time is right."

Time will tell how the season-ending knee injury Leonard suffered in LA's second-round win over the Utah Jazz in the 2021 NBA Playoffs will impact his decision, but he will have a few options depending on what his priorities are, all of which were outlined by ESPN's Bobby Marks.

Here's what you need to know...

Option 1: Leonard could pick up his $36.0 million player option for the 2021-22 season and sign a four-year, $181.5 million extension with the Clippers. That would guarantee him $217.5 million between now and the 2025-26 season.

Option 2: Leonard could decline his player option to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason and sign a four-year, $176.2 million contract with the Clippers. It's the most the Clippers would be able to offer him because they don't have his full Bird rights.

Option 3: Leonard could decline his player option and sign a two-year, $80.6 million contract with the Clippers that includes a player option for the second year. That would set him up to sign a five-year, $235.0 million contract in 2022, the largest in NBA history to date.

Each comes with a different set of risk and reward.

Option 1 is the safest for Leonard because it would lock him into over $200.0 million.

Option 2 doesn't guarantee him as much money, but he would make more annually over the next four years than he would in Option 1 and could make up the difference on his next contract.

Leonard would maximize his earnings with Option 3, but it would hinge on him staying healthy and still playing at a high enough level to command a $235.0 million contract in 2022 as he enters his early 30s.

Of course, Leonard could also leave the Clippers to sign with a different team this offseason - both the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat "plan to make a hard push" to acquire the two-time Finals MVP, per The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor - but that will only become a possibility if he declines his player option.

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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