Kawhi Leonard: Raptors worry revealed over Lakers and Clippers target due to Kyle Lowry

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That’s according to ESPN’s Ryen Russillo.

The Raptors are second in the Eastern Conference, just 0.5 games behind the first-seeded Milwaukee Bucks with a 31-12 record just past the half-way mark.

Leonard has been a major asset and leads the team in points and rebounds, with Toronto having the potential to break their best regular season record of 59-23 – which they set just last year.

But the Raptors hierarchy opted to make a controversial trade by sending fans’ favourite DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs in return for Leonard and Danny Green.

That was with Toronto having failed to get past the Conference Finals in any of the last five years despite the success of back-court pairing DeRozan and Lowry, who’s friendship off the court is renowned.

Lowry reacted badly to DeRozan’s surprise departure and though Leonard has boosted the team’s post-season chances, with the Raptors in line to potentially make their first ever NBA Finals this year, it is thought the point guard remains unimpressed with the franchise and particularly team president Masai Ujiri.

Yet the Raptors’ move was a gamble because Leonard can opt out in the summer to enter free agency and made it plainly clear last summer that he wanted a move to his hometown of Los Angeles to join either the Lakers or the Clippers.

A move to either team remains a possibility for former Finals MVP Leonard, who has been typically reserved over his upcoming decision.

But Russillo told Jalen and Jacoby on ESPN: “I had Adrian Wojnarowski on my podcast and he doesn’t like the speculation but his quote to me was that Toronto still has a lot of work to do. 

“I think one of the biggest problems is that Lowry is not going to recruit Kawhi Leonard to get him to stay in Toronto

“The reason Paul George stayed in OKC when no-one really thought he would was because [Russell] Westbrook recruited him. Paul George is an impressionable guy, he likes Westbrook. He got him to stay. 

“Kyle Lowry is still upset his buddy DeRozan got traded for a better player and they have a better chance of coming out of the East after failing five times together.

“He’s upset that the guy who couldn’t get them out of the playoffs, his buddy in the back-court, is gone so he’s not going to help the franchise keep Kawhi. 

“That’s an insane, different problem that is unlike what other teams normally have, which is that guys say, ‘No you have to stay here.’ It doesn’t feel like Lowry feels that way.”

And Russillo does not believe that even if the Raptors were to make the Finals, that would convince 27-year-old Leonard to stay north of the US border.

He added: “Philly’s going to be difficult, Milwaukee is going to be difficult, the Celtics are slowly figuring this out even though they’re not the team we thought they would be back in the summer. 

“Even if you get out of the East, I don’t think you sit there as Kawhi and go, ‘Wow we’re loaded’ even though Toronto has beaten a lot of good teams even without having their full cast of characters. 

“Kawhi is a hard guy to figure out. He may wake up every day going, ‘This is nice, Toronto’s nice, it’s cool, but I can’t wait to go back to LA.’ Maybe it’s the Clippers.”

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