The San Antonio Spurs are known for being the international team of the NBA, with an array of superstars from three continents other than North America. However, this NBA finals led to one American shining brighter than any of the foreign born NBA players. Kawhi Leonard averaged 23.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in the finals and was rewarded with a well-deserved NBA finals MVP award. Playing that well on such a big stage has many wondering about the details of Kawhi Leonard’s salary moving forward.
Obviously Leonard isn’t quite an NBA superstar yet. He didn’t make this year’s all-star team, and really was regarded as the fourth best player on his team. Before the finals Leonard had 18-1 odds of winning MVP.1 Not that those odds ever actually matter, but still, it paints a picture of how he was viewed prior to the finals. That said, the Spurs love him. Gregg Popovich has talked time and time again about how he sees Leonard being a Spur for a long time to come. He’s one of the more athletic young players in the league, and with how well he played offensively in the playoffs, there’s no reason why the San Antonio shouldn’t want to hang onto him.
With how well he played, he was just about the best bargain a team could have asked for. He’s still in his rookie contract, so he only made $1,991,760 this season. He’s got one more year left on that contract and will make $3,053,368 in 2014-15.2 Where things will get interesting is before the 2015-16 season when Leonard is a restricted free agent. The team only has $8.5 million committed to that season, all of it going to Tiago Splitter. If Leonard continues to improve like he has so far, he’s going to be a top contender for a max contract. A max contract which the Spurs have not been keen to offer anyone.
The question is whether Leonard is willing to take less to continue to play in San Antonio or whether Popovich and R.C. Buford are willing to buck their model and pay Leonard a superstar figure. At this point, even though Leonard seems like the kind of player to build a team around, I still see the second option as fairly unlikely. That means that if Leonard is going to stick around, he’s going to be taking less money.
Obviously this isn’t really something worth thinking about for another year, but still, whenever a player shows up like that on the game’s biggest stage, it’s safe to assume some major money will come as a result of it. I say that unless he has a drastic drop-off, Kawhi Leonard’s salary is going to skyrocket come 2015.