But the exit door appears to be cracked slightly open as he enters unrestricted free agency this summer.
Speculation about Clippers alternatives has focused on the Heat. Of course, many teams want to add the superstar forward.
Dallas is considered by some executives to be the most serious threat to land Kawhi because of Luka Doncic’s presence and the front office’s ability to create maximum cap space or work out a sign-and-trade. During Leonard’s years with Nike, he also developed a good relationship with Nico Harrison, the Mavs’ new general manager and a former longtime executive at the company.
That’d have to be a strong relationship with Harrison to overcome Leonard’s bitter split with Nike. But maybe it is.
The Mavericks don’t project to have max cap space, even if Josh Richardson declines his $11,615,328 player option. Which is far from a guarantee. But Richardson opts out, Dallas could open max cap space by unloading Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber or Dorian Finney-Smith and Trey Burke.
If Richardson opts in, a sign-and-trade could work. Kristaps Porzingis and/or Tim Hardaway Jr. in a double sign-and-trade could be the key outgoing pieces (not necessarily to the Clippers). Though the Mavericks are low on first-round picks after sending two to the Knicks, Leonard could force L.A.’s hand by threatening to sign with a cap-space team. Dallas’ cost in a sign-and-trade wouldn’t necessarily be high.
The big challenge is convincing Leonard to come.