Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard will be a free agent in 2019. In this picture, Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors shoots a free throw during the second half of the NBA season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada, Oct. 17, 2018. Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Kawhi Leonard wanted a trade this summer from the San Antonio Spurs and his preferred destination was Los Angeles with either the Lakers or the Clippers. But his wish was not completely fulfilled as he was traded but to the Toronto Raptors.

The two-time NBA defensive player of the year was not pleased with Spurs’ decision and neither was DeMar DeRozan, who was traded the opposite way by the Raptors.

Leonard was injured for most of last season and only returned to fitness at the start of the current campaign. The small forward, however, has not allowed the disappointment to get in the way of his game and continues to position himself as one of the best in the NBA.

The 27-year-old has transformed the Raptors into one of the best in the league as they currently lead the Eastern Conference with a 24-9 record and have a three-game advantage over the second-placed Milwaukee Bucks. Leonard is averaging 26.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game on an average of 35.1 minutes played.

The former Spurs star will be a free agent next summer and continues to be linked with a move back home to Los Angeles. The Lakers have enough cap space to sign a big-time free agent and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski believes the player is also still pining for a move to LA.

However, the Raptors are not going to give up without a fight and are preparing a plan in order to convince Leonard that his long-term future lies in Toronto. Apart from just showing they can build a winning team – the franchise’s general manager Bobby Webster hopes the belief that they can keep him healthy in the long run will prove a bigger factor in Leonard’s decision about his next destination in 2019.

“Yes,” Webster said when asked if they are looking to retain Leonard, according to Blake Murphy. “I think the bigger thing that we hang our hat on is we know who we are as an organization and the things we can provide.”

“In any business, I think worrying too much about everyone else is probably not in your own best interests. We focus more on what we are doing with Kawhi, how he is adjusting and liking it here, obviously his health and his integration into the team. As you guys have seen, the growth of him from day one until now has been great, and we expect more," he said.

“These are the internal talks we have,” he added talking about their plan to convince him to re-sign with the Raptors. “I think the biggest things are, listen, keeping him healthy, I think he said it from day one that his health is most important to him. So being attentive, listening, pushing him, all the things you’d want to do with your own health for your long-term future. We think that out medical staff is the best there is in the NBA and that’s a huge advantage for us."

“Anything we can do health wise and medical wise to progress him is great, so I think that’s a big one for us,” Webster explained. “And then what happens on the court. Winning and him growing and getting better and the team getting better, and this team having a chance to make some serious noise, that’s huge."

The Raptors general manager also added that the communication between the franchise and the player has been very open from the day he joined them, making it easier for them to address his needs as a player.