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Clippers Can't Afford to Miss Out on Kawhi Leonard

For more than a year the Los Angeles Clippers built their entire franchise strategy around signing Kawhi Leonard in free agency. And, for months, it appeared they were the favorite to land him. Now, that has changed and it could signal terrible things for the franchise.

Cris Carter has been a Leonard insider for a while, so this couldn’t have been a great tweet to read in Clipperland:

The Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors appear to lead for Leonard’s services, which is horrible news for the Clippers.

Just weeks ago the Clippers had dreams of luring Leonard and Kevin Durant to town. Well, that’s out the window as Durant is headed to the Brooklyn Nets. In fact, it looks like the Clippers won’t be able to lure a second star to pair with Kawhi, as Jimmy Butler (the other possibility) appears intent on going to the Miami Heat.

The Clippers enter next season with salary cap space and a few solid players, but not enough to compete in the Western Conference. Instead, at the top of their salary cap will be the $22.6 million they owe Danilo Gallinari. If they can’t get Leonard, the roster will be a disaster.

Lou Williams will be the center of everything again and rugged forward Montrezl Harrell will continue to be solid. Young players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet show promise but they’re not game-changers.

The Clippers could bring back free agent Patrick Beverley and re-sign restricted free agent Ivica Zubac, but that won’t get them out of the first round of the playoffs.

For months NBA experts have lauded the Clippers and adviser Jerry West for how they built their roster and the savvy moves they made to clear room to chase Leonard and potentially work a deal to get a second star. Now, it increasingly appears like they could miss out on everyone.

If that happens it will be devastating for a franchise desperately attempting to find relevance.

If Leonard winds up going to the Lakers, it would be even worse for the Clippers. They simply can’t afford for that to happen.