Kawhi Leonard wants to be traded from the San Antonio Spurs, according to multiple reports. The seven-year Spur has seen enough in a wildly tricky season that saw him suffer two injuries and an internal battle with management. The league’s most silent superstar has become the center of attention, and now he wants a new home.
Finding a landing spot for Leonard is tricky for a multitude of reasons. He has full leverage in wherever he goes with just one season (and a player option) left on his contract. He can dissuade any team from unloading its assets for him if he won’t guarantee he’ll sign long-term.
Leonard’s lingering health issues will also be called into question. He hasn’t played a game since January as he recovered from quadriceps tendinopathy. There’s no reason we shouldn’t believe he’ll be back to 100 percent, but we haven’t seen him.
Still, a potential Leonard trade could shake up the league and push a fringe playoff team into a title contender. Leonard’s that valuable when healthy, and the Spurs should get a plethora of offers..
Here’s where he might land:
Leonard has the Lakers at the center of his trade destination list, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. That could mean a lot of things.
Leonard could want to escape to a larger market than San Antonio to capitalize on the outside-of-basketball money. Say, a signature shoe deal every similarly talented player has, and of course the endorsements that come with being in L.A. That isn’t the character we know Leonard to be, but maybe things have changed.
Maybe, just maybe, there’s a larger pipe dream in the picture. It isn’t impossible that Leonard’s entrance to Magic Johnson’s team would be the appetizer as LeBron James and Paul George, who are both free agents, follow suit. The Lakers have the young assets to convince San Antonio to make the move. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart all have trade value.
The question is how many and who they’d be willing to part with this early into a rebuild, and of course, if they can get another team — or the Spurs — to take Luol Deng’s hefty contract.
If any team can match the Lakers in trade assets, it’s Boston. Jayson Tatum played like a future All-Star in his rookie season, Jaylen Brown’s made the leap, and they’re sitting on a stockpile of assets.
The question for Boston is if they’d be willing to trade talent away from a team that was a game away from making the Finals despite Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward both being sidelined, especially with a talent-developing wizard like head coach Brad Stevens.
Woj reported that the Celtics inquired about a Leonard trade back in February, so there may be some legs to this rumor, though.
A Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Kawhi Leonard, Al Horford, and Literally Anyone Else starting lineup could make a run at the Warriors.
Speaking of yet another team with a seemingly unlimited amount of assets, Philly feels one centerpiece away from becoming a Finals threat.
Assuming Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are untouchable, they can still offer some package of 2017 No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington, and any of their future first-round picks, including their 2018 No. 10 pick.
An Embiid-Simmons-Leonard team could still have cap space to add another star as well.
The Knicks will be at the center of every big name who wants out given their space in the NBA market. If Kawhi wants to cash out, there’s no better option than New York, and he’s reportedly been in the city in recent days.
The Knicks don’t have the assets the Celtics or Sixers do, but could swing some combination of Tim Hardaway Jr., 2017 No. 8 pick Frank Ntilikina and their 2018 No. 9 pick.
Remember that Leonard has a lot of pull given his ability to refuse to commit long-term for anywhere San Antonio might ship him. Ultimately, the Spurs might not be able to take the best offer on the table.
Los Angeles Clippers
Leonard’s reportedly had interest from Doc Rivers, DeAndre Jordan and co. in L.A. too. If he’s concerned with joining a bigger market above all else, the Clippers could be a choice.
The Clippers aren’t the contender they were years ago — Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are both gone — but Leonard could compete in the postseason and cash out on endorsements if he’d like.
A high lottery team
It’s an outside chance, but with the draft just a few days away, the Spurs could cash in immediately on a rebuild. A majority of teams in the high lottery will struggle to sign star talent given their small markets, and may be willing to take a gamble even if Leonard won’t commit long-term.
The Memphis Grizzlies, with the No. 4 pick, seem prime to make just that move. They still have Mike Conley and Marc Gasol under contract, and could make a playoff push by adding Leonard.
If San Antonio wants to rebuild, it could find a star at No. 4: Luka Doncic, Mo Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr. or Michael Porter Jr. could be available.