Analyst: Kawhi Will Have Greatest Free-Agent Impact

Bleacher Report NBA writer Sean Highkin explained why Kawhi Leonard – not Kevin Durant – is the biggest prize in the free-agent market

June 25, 2019 - 9:32 am
Kawhi Leonard

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With free agency almost upon us, Bleacher Report NBA writer Sean Highkin dropped by CBS Sports Radio to discuss the biggest storylines heading into June 30.

“I think the one with the biggest long-term implications is probably what happens with Kawhi Leonard,” Highkin said on Ferrall on the Bench. “With Kevin Durant having the torn Achilles, he was going to be the biggest free agent of the summer, but he’s not even going to play next year. Whether he goes to the Knicks or the Nets or stays in Golden State, he’s going to be a non-factor next year. If Kawhi stays in Toronto, they have to be considered the favorites to repeat. But if he leaves Toronto, then the East is wide open and whichever team he goes to in the West, then they might have to be considered the favorites. So I think that’s going to be the one that’s most interesting to me.”

Highkin is also curious to see how the Celtics and Lakers approach free agency, especially with Boston likely losing Kyrie Irving and Al Horford.

“There was clearly something very wrong with their chemistry,” Highkin said. “Preseason, they were seen – if not the title favorites, then for sure the favorites to win the East – and just everything went haywire this whole season. They’re basically going to be coming into next season with a young team built around Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. They have a lot of decisions to make. I don’t think they’re going to be in that title-contention tier of teams in the East. I think they might still be a playoff team because the bottom of the East is kind of weak, but they’re definitely gong to take a step back next year with how much talent they’re losing.”

The Lakers, meanwhile, are reportedly trying to clear cap space to sign a third max player. Highkin, though, has mixed feelings about that.

“You still have to build the rest of the team and LeBron is 35 and just missed a bunch of time last season with the groin injury,” he said. “You see them trying to carve out space to add another max player; I don’t know if they should add another max player. I feel like if they have 25, 30 million in cap space, I think they should spread that out among a couple of different players. Get some depth just in case one of those guys goes down. Otherwise you have LeBron, Anthony Davis, whoever else they sign and nine minimum guys.”

Click below to listen to Highkin’s interview in its entirety.