Garett Fisbeck/Associated Press
Leonard received permission from the NBA to travel separately and is expected to reach the Walt Disney World Resort for the league’s restart in a few days.
The 29-year-old is the star figure on the 44-20 Clippers, one of the handful of teams considered to be front-runners for the title with the Bucks and the Lakers. Leonard was averaging 26.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists before the season was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Clippers are loaded with talent behind him, featuring players like Paul George, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverley, Marcus Morris Sr. and Landry Shamet.
The one-two punch of Leonard and George, along with the team’s depth and excellent defensive upside, has made them a popular pick to win the title despite coming into the restart with the league’s fourth-best record behind the Bucks (53-12), the Lakers (49-14) and the Toronto Raptors (46-18).
Hardwood Paroxysm @HPbasketball
Clippers had the 8th best halfcourt offense in the league at suspension point. They’re super efficient on spot-ups (40% shooting) but what augments is it is how between Kawhi, PG and Lou Will they can get so many easy buckets without having to work hard as a team for it.
Only the Lakers ( 180; bet $100 to win $180) and Bucks ( 275) have better title odds than the Clippers ( 325), per Caesars Palace.
Don’t count out Leonard come the postseason. He led the Raptors to a shocking title last year, knocking off the Philadelphia 76ers—with an epic game-winning shot in Game 7 that won’t be forgotten in either city anytime soon—the Bucks and the NBA’s previous dynasty, the Golden State Warriors.
With Kevin Durant exiting the Warriors last offseason and Leonard and George teaming up on the Clippers, the league is as wide-open this year as it’s been in quite some time. That should hold true in Orlando, where the unique circumstances of a lengthy postponement and a bubble environment with no fans in attendance could make for a bizarre finish to the year.