Many basketball fans are still in disbelief after learning that Kawhi Leonard is now gone from the Toronto Raptors no more than a month after leading the team to its first ever NBA championship.

Leonard’s decision to go home and play with the Los Angeles Clippers has definitely shattered the hearts of many Canadian hoops fans, who all thought they would be defending the title next season with the exact same group.

But now that the dust has finally settled, more revelations concerning Leonard’s free agency process have already leaked out.

Several details of this report can be categorized as brow-raising and shocking, revealing the superstar’s mindset before he comes to a decision of joining the Clippers.

Kawhi’s Plan

According to Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star, Leonard’s camp met with Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri in the early days of the free agency period to discuss the possibility of bringing another All-Star level talent to play alongside him in Toronto.

Kawhi reportedly asked the Raptors to trade for either Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal or former Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, which is something Ujiri seriously considered.

In the end, Ujiri decided to let Kawhi return to his hometown.

The Raptors president earnestly exhausted all options to give Leonard his co-star. But with the Washington Wizards fending off all kinds of trade offers for Beal and the Thunder asking a boatload of assets (reportedly Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and four unprotected first-round picks) in exchange for George and Westbrook’s burdensome contract, Ujiri knew that keeping Leonard north of the border was no longer feasible.

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Ujiri’s pursuit of Raptors’ second title

In an official press release, Ujiri expressed his gratitude for Leonard and Danny Green, who also left the Raptors for the Los Angeles Lakers on a two-year, $30 million deal. He added that the Raptors organization, the city of Toronto, and the entire country of Canada are forever grateful for their contributions in the Raptors’ first ever NBA championship.

Now that his superstar has officially left the building, Ujiri reasserted his commitment to stay in Toronto and pursue the second NBA championship for the Raptors.

Winning a second NBA crown won’t be an easy task by any margin, but the former NBA Executive of the Year proved time and time again that he can pull off the right move in order for the Raptors to become a legitimate title contender.

On Saturday, Ujiri already filled in the void left by Leonard in the wing position by signing Stanley Johnson to a two-year, $7.5 million deal. The former lottery pick is coming off a down year, splitting the 2018-19 season with the Detroit Pistons and the New Orleans Pelicans. Still, Jonson just turned 23 in May and he will get a lot of opportunities with the new-look Raptors.

The Raptors will also have a decision to make whether they lock up Pascal Siakam now with a rookie-scale contract extension this summer or let the reigning Most Improved Player of the Year test the free-agency waters next year.

With the contracts of Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet expiring at the end of this upcoming season, the Raptors are projected to have around $90 million in salary cap next summer. However, the 2020 free agency class isn’t as loaded as this year’s free agency pool with only a few top-tier players available.

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