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Free Agency 2019

NBA Free Agency 2019: Making the case for where Kawhi Leonard should sign

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Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James (NBA Getty Images)

Kawhi Leonard's season with the Toronto Raptors has come and gone, and the All-Star forward is now an unrestricted free agent after declining his player option for 2019-20.

We already made the case for why he should re-sign with the Raptors, but if he chooses to go elsewhere, where should he sign?

Our NBA.com experts state the case for Leonard's four most prevalent options.

Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): The LA Clippers.

Could the Clippers have made a better pitch to potential free agents than they did this past season?

This team wasn't on anyone's radar at the start of the season. They traded away their best player at the trade deadline and seemingly got better while also adding two promising young pieces in Landry Shamet and Ivica Zubac.

They battled their way into the playoffs, but once they drew the No. 8 seed and were forced to take on the back-to-back defending champion-Golden State Warriors, most assumed they wouldn't stand a chance.

Their response? They put up one of the best fights we've seen against one of the best teams the NBA has ever seen without a single All-Star.

The Clippers played tough, hard-nosed, gritty basketball. They fought in every single game, even if they were down by unthinkable margins. That type of fight even led them to the biggest comeback in playoff history.

They bring back Danilo Gallinari, who was one of their top scorers. Their bench tandem of super subs Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell also return, as well as their four rookies, each of whom have great upside. They'll have the option to try and re-sign pitbull Patrick Beverley, but aside from him, they get a ton of contracts off of their books to clear the space to try and sign two superstars.

If you add just Leonard to this team, they have the roster to make a run. If you add Kawhi and another All-Star calibre player, the Western Conference will have another powerhouse team.

If I'm Kawhi and I decide not to re-sign with Toronto, I'm looking no further than the Clippers this offseason.

Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): The Brooklyn Nets.

Brooklyn is an intriguing fit as a team that, like LA, exceeded expectations and is well ahead of schedule.

Like the Clippers, the Nets boast a young, talented roster that competes hard every single night. Unique to Brooklyn is the fact that they could already have an All-Star in tow should the team re-sign 23-year-old D'Angelo Russell.

While Russell's free agency is one to keep an eye on, it's essentially a win-win for the Nets regardless of the outcome. If he stays, they pair a (somewhat) homegrown All-Star with Leonard. If he leaves, they can almost certainly find another star in a loaded free agent class given their potential ability to sign two players to max contracts.

In addition to the above All-Star level talent, the team has a number of impactful wings. Among them are the likes of Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Taurean Prince. Should Leonard continue to take the cautious approach with the number of games he appears in, the Nets will have more than enough to replace his production on a situational basis.

With 21-year-old centre Jarrett Allen protecting the rim on the interior and Leonard locking up on the perimeter, this team has scary potential defensively as well.

In the Eastern Conference, Brooklyn immediately becomes a top-four team with the addition of Leonard.

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): The New York Knicks.

The Knicks can offer Leonard a lot of the same things the Nets can - a max contract, first and foremost, in addition to intriguing young talent and the cap space to sign another max level player.

Their young talent is headlined by RJ Barrett, the No. 3 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Mitchell Robinson, who proved to be one of the league's best shot blockers as a rookie, Kevin Knox, a talented forward whom the Knicks selected with the No. 9 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, and Allonzo Trier, a backup guard who has a knack for scoring.

The combination gives the Knicks four rotational players on team-friendly contracts who have the potential to compliment Leonard and another superstar well.

Even if the Knicks were unable to sign Leonard and one of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler or Klay Thompson this summer, Barrett, Robinson, Knox and Trier would give them a solid package to pursue someone else in a trade, either immediately or by next season's trade deadline.

Leonard added to his legacy by leading the Raptors to their first-ever title. The Knicks have won a championship before - two, to be exact - but it's been almost 50 years. If he were to end that drought? The Knicks might put up a statue of him overnight.

Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): The Los Angeles Lakers.

Signing with the Lakers would be the polar opposite to signing with the Raptors.

In Toronto, Leonard operates as a singular star orbited by a combination of trusty veterans and young players on the rise. There's stability in the front office and a proven track record that this configuration can, in fact, lead to the loftiest of perches.

In Los Angeles, Leonard would stand tall as the third legitimate megastar surrounded by mostly minimum contracts and perhaps eventually a few buy-out veterans looking for a ring. It's a franchise steeped in tradition that points to banners from previous generations and the allure of a potential burgeoning dynasty much more than it does recent success.

By winning a second Finals MVP in the manner in which he did, Leonard has re-entered the conversation for best player in the league and is starting to creep into all-time legacy debates. What better way to cement his status than by leading the Lakers and coming out on top in a three-way internal alpha dog tug of way with LeBron James and Anthony Davis?

Beyond the immediate future, his timeline matches up perfectly with Davis. Leonard will be 28 entering next season while Davis turned 26 in March, placing them in line to dominate well after LeBron James hangs them up for good. Toronto's roster is much older and there's no guarantee on just how good Pascal Siakam will ultimately become. While re-signing with the Raptors certainly gives him a shot to win it all again in 2019-20, the longer view presents more uncertainty than teaming up with a 26-year-old Davis.

Signing with the Lakers is a swing-for-the-fences move that can potentially vault Leonard into another stratosphere of superstardom, a level that goes far beyond typical year-to-year chatter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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