Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors runs down the floor in the first half against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., Jan. 13, 2019. Rob Carr/Getty Images

Kawhi Leonard joined the Toronto Raptors as part of a trade deal that took DeMar DeRozan in the opposite direction last summer but he is expected to leave the team when he enters free agency in July. He can opt out of the final year of his contract and many expect him to fulfill his wish to return to the West Coast.

The 27-year-old was linked with a move to the Los Angeles Lakers last summer but they refused to put together a convincing trade package in the hope of signing him as a free agent in 2019. Leonard's desire to return home to Los Angeles is no secret and according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, many in the NBA are almost certain he would leave the Raptors after just one season.

"A lot of people in the NBA think Kawhi is out of [Toronto]," he said. "It's not because of anything the Raptors did. Kawhi kind of wants to be on the West Coast. The difficulty is that he doesn't really articulate his feelings to people,” Windhorst said on ESPN’s “The Jump” Wednesday, as transcribed by the Bleacher Report.

The two-time defensive player of the year has once again impressed for the Raptors this season, averaging 26.6 points and 7.3 rebounds. The Toronto franchise finished second in the Eastern Conference, behind the Milwaukee Bucks, and are now tied 1-1 in the first round of the playoffs against Orlando Magic.

Meanwhile, looking back, the Lakers’ decision to wait until Leonard becomes a free agent to sign him in 2019 could back-fire on them spectacularly this summer, with multiple reports claiming they are not on the top of his wish list if he returns to Los Angeles. The Clippers are said to be his favored destination in the Western Conference.

Doc Rivers’ team has the cap space to sign two big free agents and that is said to be one of the reasons he maybe considering a move to the Clippers. The Lakers have proven to be unstable this season, finishing outside the playoff places and then losing their head coach and president of basketball operations - Luke Walton and Magic Johnson respectively - in the last two weeks.

Leonard is one among a number of top players that are entering the free agent market in 2019. The others include Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler and Demarcus Cousins.