He could have signed a 1+1 contract with the same $39,344,900 max salary this season, opted out then signed a five-year contract projected to be worth $242 million next summer.
Why did Leonard – who tore his ACL in the playoffs – take the longer deal?
Because I wanted to play. The best situation for me, to me, was to do it one-and-one and then opt out and then sign a long-term five-year deal. But there’s a lot of concerns that that brings up for you guys and your job, and it creates storylines that I’m going to leave the team. One thing, I wanted to secure some money, and I wanted to be able to come back if I was able to this year. If I would have took the one-and-one, I probably would have not played just to be cautious and opted out and took a five-year. But I’m here. I’m here to be a Clipper. I’m not going to another team unless something drastic happens. I’m here for the long run.
That’s refreshing candor from Leonard, who has a history of openness about his contract status. It’s easy to have the fantasy that every player will give his all to the team as soon as he’s healthy enough to play. But financial security matters in those decisions.
Now, if Leonard is ready to return, he can knowing he still has another three seasons beyond this one of guaranteed high salaries.
Leonard is also correct that signing long-term quiets outside noise about his future with the team. Antetokounmpo made a similar determination last offseason, and that worked out well for him and the Bucks.
The Clippers are also positioned to take advantage of Leonard’s commitment – if he returns. Which is more likely because of his commitment.