Well, it is official: Kawhi Leonard has asked to be moved from San Antonio. This move, while a bit surprising, has been in the making for some time and will certainly change the landscape of the NBA. Here a few possible landing spots that the Spurs may look to move Leonard to.
The Celtics reportedly probed the Spurs about a possible trade for Leonard in February. Personally, I think Danny will roll with his core guys (Irving, Brown, Hayward, Tatum, and Horford) unless he can execute a deal involving Terry Rozier or one of the many protected picks they possess. These assets may not be enough for the Spurs, but the Celtics certainly shouldn’t break the bank on a guy who plays the position the Celtics are strongest at, who also happens to be coming off of a serious injury/clearly has some personality issues. For those reasons, I doubt this trade actually happens
The Cavaliers were not the most talented team this past year, but if the Spurs believe LeBron’s teammates were overshadowed by him, they may look to trade Kawhi out of the Western Conference. A deal with the Cavs may reunite George Hill and Gregg Popovich, yield a young Cedi Osman, as well as give the Spurs the number 8 overall pick. If this trade goes down, LeBron may end up picking up his player option and stay in Cleveland. Both Leonard and James could then become free agents after the 2018-19 season.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have the ability to sign two max contracts already, and if they traded Luol Deng and Josh Hart for Leonard, they could STILL sign two max players. The Lakers could try to sweeten the deal with some draft picks, but they still need bodies to put on the court. Ultimately, this trade could transform the Lakers into instant contenders in the Western Conference, if they can net LeBron and Paul George, and guys like Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball continue to develop.
Let’s face it, the whole Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan thing has NOT worked. Unfortunately, Dwayne Casey was the one who took the fall for their lackluster performance against the Cavaliers. However, now is a chance for the Raptors, under new head coach Nick Nurse, to create a new look team featuring Kawhi Leonard. In this scenario, I could see the Raptors trading DeRozan to the Spurs for Leonard almost straight up. The two teams may need to negotiate a couple players for salary cap reasons or try to get a draft pick as a sweetener for the deal, but Leonard would be out of the Western Conference and the Spurs would have received an All-Star caliber player in DeRozan.
Atlanta Hawks/ Memphis Grizzlies
I saved my favorite scenario for last. Wouldn’t it be fitting if the Spurs said ‘screw you’ to Kawhi and sent him to one of these two bottom feeders in the league? After all of the trouble Leonard has caused for the Spurs, they could both trade him to a place he would hate AND get some valuable assets in return. For Leonard, the Spurs may be willing to take on Chandler Parsons and his awful contract ($24 million) if they could also have the number 4 pick in the draft. The Grizzlies will most likely be sellers at the trade deadline this year and could move Leonard, if they so chose, and perhaps get a haul of draft picks or multiple assets.
In the case of the Atlanta Hawks, swapping Kent Bazemore and the number 3 overall pick for Kawhi Leonard gives the Hawks a piece to trade at the deadline and the Spurs an even better draft pick. Plus, in the case of Atlanta, Leonard is out of the Western Conference. Either way, the Spurs will be able to retool in a major way as they bide their time for when they can strike again in the Western Conference after the Parker/Ginobili era comes to an end.
Where do you think Kawhi Leonard will be by the time the regular season begins?