Raptors intend to show Leonard they’re his best destination

Raptors star forward Kawhi Leonard will be a free agent in the summer of 2019.

The season isn’t even a month old but the Toronto Raptors are already putting on a full-court press in their effort to keep Kawhi Leonard in free agency, according to a report from ESPN.

And who can blame them?

With Leonard on the roster, the Raptors could emerge as the best team in the East.

Granted, there is a long way to go, and plenty can and will still happen. But Leonard has quickly become the Raptors’ best player and greatest reason for hope. He also becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the season. There’s no telling where Leonard may wind up. According to ESPN, the Los Angeles Clippers are undoubtedly in the mix (likely even more than the Los Angeles Lakers).

But the Raptors were 9-1 entering Monday’s game at Utah, coming off a downright throttling of the Lakers in LA — without Leonard, who sat out to rest a sore foot.

So winning certainly appeals to star small forwards such as Leonard. So does recruiting. The Raptors intend to be proficient in both areas.

“Toronto’s sales pitch will extend off the court, as well,” Tim Bontemps of ESPN reported. “On opening night in Toronto, Leonard was introduced last to a massive ovation from the fans inside Scotiabank Arena — the kind that will be commonplace over the next several months, as the rabid Raptors fan base tries to will him into making the decision it hopes he will.

“And with the ability to offer him unfettered access to one of the big cities in North America from a marketing standpoint — not to mention an entire country — Toronto hopes to convince Leonard there’s plenty to be gained financially from sticking around.”

Will it be enough to keep Leonard from leaving? No one will likely know the answer, perhaps even Leonard, until the summer of 2019.

But so far, Leonard and the Raptors are very clearly off to a good start together.