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The Spurs reportedly are ready to trade Kawhi Leonard. Now what?

San Antonio is reportedly engaging in trade discussions, and the Celtics and Lakers remain likely destinations.

San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Four Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs hoped they’d be able to keep the best player the franchise has had since Tim Duncan’s prime, but according to The New York Times’ Marc Stein, the franchise is ready to move on from Kawhi Leonard, who has expressed his desire to play elsewhere next season, specifically his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.

Leonard played in only nine games last season while skepticism over his health status after a nagging quadriceps injury led him to seek independent doctors in New York. While away from the team, his relationship with San Antonio management fractured. And even though Leonard reportedly had a sit-down meeting with Spurs’ officials, including head coach Gregg Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford, it appears the franchise is no longer willing to sit idly while their superstar forward publicly expresses he wants to go somewhere else.

The Spurs still made the playoffs without Leonard last season, but he’s an all-world talent who, when healthy, is the best two-way player in all of basketball. He is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year who also averaged 25.5 points per game on efficient shooting percentages two seasons ago. After all, it was the Spurs who led the Warriors by 20 in the opening game of the 2017 Western Conference Finals, only to blow that lead and subsequently get swept after Leonard’s injury on Zaza Pachulia’s foot.

But he and the Spurs haven’t appeared to reach common ground since he left the team in the middle of the season to find a new group of doctors to examine his injury. And if his future in San Antonio is over, his options are outside of his control ... at least for now.

Leonard still has one year left on his contract

He could opt out and become an unrestricted free agent, but the biggest draw to staying with the Spurs is the financial impact. If he stays in San Antonio, Leonard can sign a five-year supermax contract worth $219 million, the final year of which would pay him an obscene $49.9 million. The most he can get anywhere else is four years worth $139 million.

That’s almost $80 million he’s appearing to leave on the table by leaving San Antonio this summer, but the belief is he wants to play in a big market where he can make that money up tenfold through endorsement opportunities off the court. The Spurs could sign him to the supermax, then trade him to another team, and according to USA Today’s Sam Amick, they weren’t interested in trading the star forward to a Western Conference team at first.

But now it appears the options have been cut down to two

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Spurs are engaging with the Celtics and the Lakers. The Celtics can offer any number of their stockpile of attractive assets or players, including Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, possibly even Kyrie Irving, as well as their future draft picks, which could include any one of the 76ers’, Clippers’, Grizzlies’, Kings’, and/or Boston’s own 2019 first-round pick.

The Lakers’ offer wouldn’t include as many potential lottery picks, but their attractive young players include budding star Brandon Ingram, young point guard Lonzo Ball, breakout three-and-D wing Kyle Kuzma, rookie stretch four Mo Wagner, shooting guard Josh Hart, and their own future first-round picks.

But the question in any Leonard deal is whether a team can convince him to stay despite his public desire to play in Los Angeles.

A Leonard trade for the right package can give San Antonio the young players and draft assets it needs for a head start into its rebuild. It could be the first domino that sends LeBron James and maybe even Paul George to the Lakers to form a legitimate Big 3. It could also be the trade the solidifies the Boston Celtics as Eastern Conference juggernauts for the next five years.

If the Spurs truly want to move on from Leonard, they’ll orchestrate the trade before free agency begins on July 1. And if they do, watch out. It’s only the beginning of a wild NBA summer that’s just starting to heat up.