Spurs wing and 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard was the No. 15 pick in the 2011 Draft. So he’s due an extension before tonight’s midnight deadline. According to league sources, ESPN’s Marc Stein reports the Spurs and Leonard are unlikely to agree on a new deal and he’ll become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2015.
Leonard and his reps are looking for a max deal after his Finals performance helped the Spurs capture the title four games to one over the Heat. Leonard, who defended LeBron James for much of the series, was named the Finals MVP, the second youngest in league history behind Magic Johnson‘s starring turn for the Lakers in 1980.
Still, the Spurs, who usually spread the wealth around so they can remain contenders, are balking at a max deal, something his peer from the 2011 Draft, Klay Thompson, is also seeking from the Warriors.
Here’s Stein with the latest, which has to make some Spurs fans leery:
There is a strong likelihood that Friday’s midnight deadline for contract extensions for first-round picks from the Class of 2011 will pass without a new deal for reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com this week that Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs, despite more serious discussions between the parties in advance of the Halloween buzzer, are unlikely to come to terms during this extension window, setting up the 23-year-old to become a restricted free agent in July.
Stein adds that Leonard’s agent, Brian Elfus, has been in San Antonio this week to negotiate with Spurs officials.
The Spurs are comfortable waiting until July to assess Leonard’s worth on the open market — they hold the right match any offer sheet Leonard might sign — in the name of achieving financial stability. Even though the Spurs are defending champs and have made the last two NBA Finals, they’re still considered a small-market team in San Antonio and luxury taxes aren’t something they’re too keen on paying.
With Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili in the last year of their current deals and approaching retirement age, San Antonio wants to wait and see how this season plays out before matching what will likely be a max offer sheet from another team.
Then again, Dallas let Chandler Parsons out of the last year of his bargain basement deal, believing they’d be able to match any offer that came his way in restricted free agency this summer. Instead, Dallas’ Mark Cuban swooped in to sign him to a three-year, $46 million contract with a player option in the last year. Houston couldn’t match and instead signed Trevor Ariza.
While Klay is likely to get his extension — it remains to be seen whether it’ll be a max deal — Kawhi will have to wait. Still, it’s unlikely “The Claw” plays elsewhere. His low-key demeanor and selfless attention to staying in shape and moving the ball in San Antonio’s vaunted motion offense, make him a natural fit for the Spurs.
Leonard was out of Tuesday night’s opener against the Mavs while battling an eye infection that kept him out of all but one preseason game in October. He was at the game to accept his championship ring, though, and he’ll return to the lineup as a starting small forward in tonight’s 10 p.m. ET showdown with the Suns.
Meanwhile, six other members of the 2011 Draft have already received extensions this summer, including Kyrie Irving (Cavs), Kenneth Faried (Nuggets), Nikola Vucevic (Magic), Kemba Walker (Hornets) and the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff (Suns).
Other 2011 Draftees remain on the last year of their deals as we approach the deadline tonight: OKC’s Reggie Jackson, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Milwaukee’s Brandon Knight, New York’s Iman Shumpert and Miami’s Norris Cole haven’t gotten extensions and aren’t likely to before Cinderella’s gown turns back into drab pieces of cloth at midnight. Also, Enes Kanter and Utah stopped negotiating so KAnter can become a restricted free agent in July next year, though guard Alec Burks is still elgible for an extension.
Should the Spurs extend Kawhi now to lock him down?
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