NBA Twitter received a shock-wave in the form of a Shams Charania tweet Friday morning:
Kawhi Leonard wants out from the San Antonio Spurs, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 15, 2018
The disgruntled San Antonio star has been away from the team for months, but there was some optimism that Leonard and the Spurs would reconcile their differences. After all, the Spurs are the only team that can offer Leonard a Supermax deal. Salary cap projections are still up in the air at this current juncture, but it roughly means the Spurs can offer up to $80 million more over the entirety of the contract than any other team.
Apparently, that doesn’t matter to Leonard, who has expressed his desire to play elsewhere this upcoming season. Many teams will enter their hat into the fray, and here are five potential deals that make sense for both sides:
Kawhi Goes Home
Spurs Get: Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Luol Deng, 2020 First rounder
Lakers Get: Kawhi Leonard
The Lakers faithful have been clamoring for a star ever since Kobe Bryant dropped 60 points in his final game. With Leonard, Magic Johnson delivers the fans their star, with the opportunity of bringing in more.
Ingram’s and Kuzma’s perceived potential vary from person to person, but they project to at least be above-average players that can develop in the time being. They certainly have intriguing skill-sets that Popovich would welcome.
LeBron’s impending free agency looms over the league. The league’s worst kept secret is Paul George ending up in his hometown. The James-George-Leonard combo is as star-studded as any trio in league history, and they’d still have Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and the No. 25 this year to play around with.
I’ll say it AGAIN: Kawhi Leonard used his bruised thigh as an excuse to quit on the Spurs. He was crumbling under the MVP predictions and pressure to become face of the franchise. He’s a No. 2 star. Wants Lakers trade in hopes he can play in LeBron’s shadow. Good riddance.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) June 15, 2018
Celtics Form a Superteam
Spurs Get: Jaylen Brown, 2019 First rounder (from Sacramento)
Celtics Get: Kawhi Leonard
Laker fans worst nightmare coming to fruition.
No team has more movable assets than the C’s. Years flipping contracts and picks has led to Boston being able to afford the loss of two enticing pieces. Brown would arguably be the best player received in a deal for the disgruntled Leonard. Sacramento is on a decade-plus run of ineptitude, and their pick will likely land in the top-8 in 2019.
Leonard would instantly bolster the league’s best defense from a year ago. With him, Hayward, and Tatum occupying the 2-3-4 spots, Brad Stevens would have a trio of switchable, 6’8″ defenders that could cross-match as desired. Add in Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, and the Celtics have the makings of a team that could conceivably take down the mighty Warriors.
The Spurs could also try to squeeze Terry Rozier or Marcus Morris out of the deal. Either way, Danny Ainge has plenty of pieces to make it work, and the rest of the league should be worried of that notion.
Cleveland’s Last Ditch Effort
Spurs Get: Kevin Love, Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, No. 8 Pick
Cavaliers Get: Kawhi Leonard
There appears to be a wide-spread belief that LeBron has one-foot out of Cleveland. After falling short for the second consecutive year in the NBA Finals, the soon-to-be free agent James has his pick of the litter when it comes to joining a contending team. The Cavaliers are nearly capped out, and don’t have a whole lot of assets that they can ship out to bring in more talent.
What the Cavs do have is a 29-year-old All-Star and a top-10 pick in a loaded draft. Love is as Spurs-y of a player that’s ever existed in the NBA. Popovich would love his ability to pass, shoot, and clean the glass. Osman and Zizic are controllable, young players that compete with energy — another trademark of players that Pop has favored.
LeBron and Kawhi on their own might not be enough to dethrone the Warriors, but it’s certainly a start. Leonard is the perfect ‘Pippen’ to LeBron’s ‘Jordan’. The former can defend the opposing team’s best player, while the latter gains much needed rest to use on the other end of the court.
There would likely be more moves in store from Cleveland’s end. If Dan Gilbert wants any chance of keeping LeBron, he’ll need to make a splash move like this.
Jordan Brand Back In The Windy City
Spurs Get: Kris Dunn, Bobby Portis, Denzel Valentine, No. 7 and No 22 Picks
Bulls Get: Kawhi Leonard
Jordan Brand has taken some massive hits over the past 12 months. Jimmy Butler went from Chicago to Detroit. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin went from Los Angeles to Houston (not so bad) and Detroit (very bad). Russell Westbrook inked a multi-year deal in Oklahoma City. We theorize that Carmelo Anthony got lost somewhere between New York City and Missouri, and has been replaced by some hooded doppleganger.
The company that represents the most recognizable athlete in the history of the sport begs for better representation in the bigger markets. What better spot for Leonard than his boss’s old stomping grounds?
“The Chicago Bulls definitely have a trade package to put together for Kawhi Leonard.”
– @WindhorstESPN on ESPN 1000
— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) June 13, 2018
The Bulls incrementally expedited their rebuilding process with some surprising breakout performances this past season. They jettisoned Nikola Mirotic as soon as he started playing the best basketball of his career, and saw great strides of improvement in their bevy of youngsters (most notably, Lauri Markkanen).
The Spurs would likely ask for Markkanen in return, but that entirely defeats the purpose of them trading away Butler last offseason. A core of Leonard, Markkanen, and Zach LaVine would be a coup for Chicago.
Trust The Claw-cess
Spurs Get: Markelle Fultz, Richaun Holmes, Jeryd Bayless, Justin Anderson
76ers Get: Kawhi Leonard
The 76ers are another team that appear to be in the LeBron Sweepstakes, but could quickly drop out if another option becomes available. On paper, Leonard is a better fit than James in terms of meshing alongside Philly’s current stars. His defense, ability to play off the ball, and consistent outside jumper would look great next to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
Fultz’s shooting form woes are well-documented. However, he knocked down 41.3-percent of his triples while at Washington. The Spurs did a marvelous job reworking Kawhi’s jumper once he entered the league, and might have another miracle in the works. Holmes and Anderson are Spurs-y type role players (intriguing skill-sets with obvious limitations), and Bayless is a veteran added to make the contracts work.
The Spurs have a bevy of options at their disposal, and will ultimately take the deal that most benefits their team moving forward. Although Leonard holds some leverage with his contract expiring in 2019, he could end up playing for any number of teams in the upcoming season.
Sources: Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports, Twitter/ChiSportUpdates, Twitter/RealSkipBayless, Twitter/ShamsCharania