Out of nowhere, Yahoo Sports journalist Chris Haynes broke the news that the Clippers re-signed Kawhi Leonard to a 4 year, $176.3M deal with a player option on the fourth year.
The news that Kawhi was returning to the Clippers, if you can even call it news considering how little drama there was around it, was broken last week. However, at the time, it was reported that Kawhi Leonard would likely be re-signed to a 1+1 deal (two years with a player option on the second year) that would enable him to sign a 5 year, $235M contract next summer. That is the path that would have earned Leonard the most money, and all the reporting from every site of substance – ESPN, the Athletic, Yahoo, LA Times – had that as the probable option.
Why the four-year deal? Well, there could be some nervousness for Kawhi and his camp regarding the ACL surgery he underwent a few weeks ago. While the Clippers definitely would have offered him the full max next summer, locking him in for massive money the remainder of his prime, there still could have been a worry at the back of the mind that they would not do so. By signing the four year deal now, Kawhi has nearly $180M guaranteed until he’s 34 years old – in addition to the $150M he’s made already.
However, considering the opt out option (between $39M for next year and $235 over the following five) would have been $274 over six years compared to $176M over the next four, it seems like Leonard lost both amount of time locked in as well as salary per year. Maybe the nervousness did creep up, and it was important for them to get the deal done sooner – at this point, that appears to be the only explanation.
Regardless, Kawhi Leonard will now be a Clipper until he’s 34, or the remainder of his prime (unless he opts out after year three). Clippers fans will not have to worry or pay attention to the constant rumors swirling around superstars of Kawhi Leonard’s caliber regarding ability to be re-signed or not. While it seems extremely likely he would have come back next year, now there’s no doubt as to what uniform he will be wearing for at least the next three years.
As for the Clippers themselves, getting Kawhi Leonard re-signed to this deal is an immense win. They bet on themselves when they signed Kawhi and traded for Paul George two years ago, and now have both their superstars on deals for the foreseeable future. With George and Leonard in Clippers’ jerseys, all the attention can now be given to the rest of the roster, and making other moves to get the Clippers’ their first ever championship.