Kawhi Leonard was eligible for a contract extension this season, and coming off a Finals MVP performance that helped the Spurs win the 2014 title, a max deal seemed like a foregone conclusion.
The Oct. 31 deadline passed without a deal being done, however, meaning that Leonard could test the market as a restricted free agent next summer, even though San Antonio would have the right to match any offer he may receive.
But Leonard isn’t leaving.
He knows that the only reason his deal didn’t get done now was due to the way the salary cap works, and as long as the Spurs come with a max offer as expected next summer, he won’t be playing anywhere else.
From Sam Amick of USA Today:
“I was never upset about (the extension),” Leonard said. “I mean they explained to me what their deal is and why they didn’t do it yet. That’ll play out. I’m just here to play basketball and have fun and try to win another championship. If I think about that, then I’m not going to be the same player that I am and will be just out of it. …
“I don’t think I’m going anywhere,” Leonard said. “I mean they love me here. I like the organization, and if it was up to me, I want to finish out with one team like a lot of great players have done, to stay with one organization their whole career and just be loyal to that. You never know. We’ll see what happens next summer, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be in a Spurs jersey for my whole life.”
Our own Dan Feldman concisely explained why the Spurs will benefit from waiting until after the season to take care of their franchise player.
“If the Spurs give Leonard a max extension now, based on the NBA’s projected salary cap, he’d count $15,502,415 against the cap next offseason. If Leonard becomes a free agent, he’d count just $7,235,148 against the cap until signed. That extra $8,267,267 of cap space could be quite useful, and San Antonio could exceed the cap to re-sign Leonard after using it.”
Leonard is not only the present in San Antonio; he’s the future. As Gregg Popovich said after a tough win over the Clippers on Monday, it isn’t as though Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili can play forever.
“We ran more plans for (Leonard) tonight than I ever have in his career,” Popovich said. “That’s the plan. We’ve got to start giving him the ball. He’s the future. I don’t think Tim (Duncan) and Manu (Ginobili) are going to play any more than six or seven more years.”