Deadspin fixes NBA free agency, Part III: Small Forwards

Seven All-Defenses, Five All-Stars, Five All-NBA’s, two NBA Finals MVP Awards, two Championships, two Defensive Player of the Year’s, and the baddest motherfucker on the planet who is still rockin’ cornrows in 2021.

Admittedly, this would be more interesting if Kawhi Leonard were healthy. If so, we might’ve been talking about him coming off an NBA Finals berth or even a third title with a third team. We also might’ve been talking about him possibly going elsewhere and playing right away. Alas, the aforementioned partially torn ACL will keep him out for a good deal of the upcoming 2021-22 season, but a ruptured Achilles didn’t stop the Brooklyn Nets from offering Kevin Durant a max contract two summers ago.

Who should try their hardest: The Clippers. Though Leonard has been linked to teams like the Heat and Knicks, the expectation, unsurprisingly, is that he’ll be back with the Clippers.

Who probably will call, but shouldn’t: Hmm … probably the Heat? The Heat are in a delicate situation. Jimmy Butler is 31 and will be 32 in September. Bam Adebayo, who is just 24, will begin his max contract extension this coming season. Pat Riley is 76 years old and clearly wants one more shot at a championship, especially after nearly tasting it this last October. The Heat had a tremendous 2019-20, but were saddled with COVID and injuries more than most other teams this past year, eventually falling to the Milwaukee Bucks following a quick season-to-season turnaround. Leonard reportedly recruited Butler before teaming with George in Los Angeles, as Butler was set on Miami. Could the Heat, under pressure to win now, afford to wait for Leonard to recover? If he wants to come, his health makes it a difficult call, and it would be damn near impossible to say no if Butler wants it as well.

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