The viral news “breaking” today is that Kawhi Leonard is requesting a trade out of San Antonio, essentially citing irreconcilable differences. I give credit where credit is due by putting breaking in parentheses because Dan Lifshatz of Boston’s 98.5 The Sports Hub has been steadfastly reporting this imminent break up for months.
The rumor de jour is that he will use all his power to navigate his way to a new three headed monster in Los Angles. It seems a forgone conclusion at this point that Lebron James, and Paul George will be rocking the purple and gold next year, but various rumors of various validity have linked all sorts of players to be joining their little menage-a-trois event, including Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, DeMar DeRozan, Boogie Cousins, and now Kawhi Leonard.
Much like baseball’s spring training, where every team feels like their in it, visions of World Series fame dancing in the players head, so too will tonight be for NBA fans dreaming of Leonard joining their favorite squad.
Keep in mind, that history has shown us that superstars simply never return equal value in trades, you don’t see a Steph Curry traded for James Harden. Every once in a while a trade becomes more even than anticipated, such as Victor Oladipo suddenly developing into a player on par with Paul George, but such things are not expected.
Also keep in mind that Kawhi missed all but 9 games this past season. To listen to Leonard’s camp it was due to a nagging injury, to read between the lines of his teammate’s commentary, it was all in his head. Coupled with having only 1 year remaining on his contract, the Spurs aren’t exactly trading peak value Leonard.
All that being said, when healthy Leonard is in the prime of his career, and a top 3-5 player in the NBA. So lets go through the best last offer each team should be prepared to make in the Leonard sweepstakes. Make sure you read that sentence, I said SHOULD, the best offer the Warriors could make would be to offer Steph Curry, but that isn’t the best offer they SHOULD make. Teams that are rebuilding have to weigh the pros and cons of sending out all their assets, is it worth it? What if you’re an in between team like the Pistons, Hornets, or Clippers? Teams that aren’t bad, but aren’t exactly contenders for the Finals either, do you give up Griffin, Walker, or Jordan, or are you looking to add Leonard to pair with the current face of your franchise?
Also of consideration is of course the salary cap, all the trades that will be proposed below would work under the current salary cap situations of these teams. Obviously situations will change as other trades and signings are made, but we’re dealing in the now here.
Kawhi Leonard for Dennis Schroder, John Collins, and the #3 pick. The Hawks go all in, kick starting a rebuild around Leonard with some cap room.
Kawhi Leonard for Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Guerschon Yabusele, Abdel Nader, Marcus Morris, #27 pick, and the Clippers future first. The primary pieces being Brown, Rozier, and Morris, with some additional draft picks to sweeten the pot. Nader and the dancing bear are added to make the cap space work.
Kawhi Leonard for D’Angelo Russell, Jarrett Allen, Rondae Hollis Jefferson, and #29 pick. If you’re playing in New York, you need a star, the Nets will finally start to get some draft picks to use, it’d be nice if they had a real cornerstone to build around.
Kawhi Leonard for Marvin Williams, Malik Monk, Frank Kaminsky, and #10 pick. The Hornets roster is full of mediocre with Kemba Walker really being the only all star level player. As such, the Hornets need to cling to Walker and look to add to him. Trading out Walker for Leonard still leaves them in no mans land as they’re cap strapped for the forseeable future.
Kawhi Leonard for Lauri Markkanen, Denzel Valentine, Kris Dunn, #22 pick, and 2020 1st rounder. This trade essentially reverses the Butler trade of a year ago, so I’m not sure the Bulls would be willing to do this, especially since they’d be hard pressed to re-sign Leonard a year from now, but then again, this is all a hypothetical.
Kawhi Leonard & Pau Gasol for Kevin Love, George Hill, and #8 pick. I love the symmetry of Leonard being traded for Hill, again. In this scenario the Spurs attach Gasol’s contract to the deal to move him out. Spurs get 3 pieces, an all star forward, a guard Popovich knows well, and a lotto pick.
Kawhi Leonard for Dennis Smith Jr. and #5 pick. First off, let me first say, this isn’t happening. But a front line of Leonard, Barnes, Matthews could cause fits, but the lack of a point guard and center could cause fits for Rick Carlisle.
Kawhi Leonard for Gary Harris Jr., Trey Lyles, and #14 pick. The Nuggets are a team on the cusp of being contenders…. for the Western Conference Finals. Jokic, Milsap, and Leonard on the front line with Murray in the back court is something to consider.
Kawhi Leonard for Luke Kennard, Stanley Johnson, Ish Smith, Henry Ellenson, Reggie Bullock, 2020 1st, and 2022 1st. Basically the Pistons send out every viable piece they can in an effort to assemble their own big 3 of Leonard-Griffin-Drummond. Lets just say if I’m Detroit I’m not holding my breath on this one.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS:
Kawhi Leonard for Andre Igoudala, Damien Jones, and #28 pick. You wanna talk about a death line-up? How does Green-Durant-Leonard-Thompson-Curry sound? Cap wise its very viable, luxury tax wise, its really not viable, but its certainly fun to dream about.
Kawhi Leonard for Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, 2019 1st, and 2021 1st. Darryl Morey is a magician, but I don’t see this one happening. The Spurs won’t be inclined to send Leonard to their neighbor, and this offer isn’t enticing enough to make them consider it.
Kawhi Leonard for Myles Turner, Dom Sabonis, and #23. Leonard returning to the team that drafted him. This offer probably isn’t enough to get him, but its what the Pacers should be willing to offer.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS:
Kawhi Leonard for Tobias Harris, Sam Dekker, #12, and #13 picks. This isn’t a bad offer for Leonard, and satisfies the going to Los Angeles criteria without setting up another super team you’d have to go through. All of which should make R.C. Buford at least consider the proposal.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS:
Kawhi Leonard for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, John Hart, Ivaca Zubac, and #25. If I’m the Spurs and know the Lakers are looking to build a super team, I’m not making it easy. I’m bleeding them of every slightly valuable asset, and I’m not touching Luol Deng’s albatross contract with a ten foot poll. The Lakers COULD do this trade, stretch Deng, and have cap room for L.A.bron and George, but they would have nothing else to work with.
Kawhi Leonard for Chandler Parsons and #4 pick. The Grizzlies apparently believe that the only thing stopping them from the playoffs is health. I’m not sure I buy that, but who I am to judge. A Gasol-Leonard-Conley three headed monster isn’t bad. The only sad part for the Grizz is knowing that Parsons would for sure be a 20 ppg guy for Pop.
Kawhi Leonard for Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo. Holy crap is the Heat’s salary cap structure awful. They’ve got guys overpaid up and down their ledger, and all for a while. At least the Hornets can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Heat are destined for NBA purgatory for 3 to 4 years, stuck in the 6-10 seed range in the East.
Kawhi Leonard for Kris Middleton, Thon Maker, Malcom Brogdon, and #17 pick. This is actually VERY interesting for all parties involved. A Kawhi-Giannis pairing could be devastating. Add in Eric Bledsoe while re-signing Jabari Parker (and hope he can remain healthy) is an intriguing line up full of 2 way player prowess. And that’s not exactly a bad haul for the Spurs either. Pop would LOVE Brogdon.
Kawhi Leonard & Pau Gasol for Andrew Wiggins, Tyus Jones, Justin Patton and #20. There have been rumors of friction between Wiggins and Butler, as well as of Jones requesting a trade out of Minny. Getting Wiggins isn’t a bad get for the Spurs, and Leonard/Butler/Towns with Teague/Dieng/Gibson as sidekicks is pretty tough.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS:
Kawhi Leonard for Nikola Mirotic, E’twuan Moore, 2020 1st, 2022 1st, 2024 1st. Obviously the drivers here are the picks, aside from Davis and Holiday the Pelicans don’t have much, and if you give up either of those guys, is there a reason to trade for Leonard? But if you do get him, and re-sign Cousins, that’s the makings of a solid squad.
NEW YORK KNICKS:
Kawhi Leonard for Frank Ntilikina, Courtney Lee, Dewayne Dotson, #9 pick, and 2020 1st. In reality the Knicks should trade anything but Porzingis to acquire Leonard, but look at their roster and draft pick ledger… this is probably the best they can do.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER:
Kawhi Leonard and Brandon Paul for Steven Adams, Terrance Ferguson, 2020 1st, and 2022 1st. Part of me says that Sam Presti is part of the Spurs executive tree, which may give him some more insight and sway to pull off a trade, but the other part says that they don’t have a whole lot to move besides pieces they want to pair WITH Leonard.
Kawhi Leonard for Jonathan Isaac, Wesley Iwundu and #6 pick. The Magic would essentially be trading their last 2 drafts for Leonard, which they would happily do, but would Isaac and #6 be enough for the Spurs?
Kawhi Leonard for Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Furkan Korkmaz, Justin Anderson, #10 pick. The 76ers are in a position of having both young, affordable contract assets, and cap space to absorb Leonard without having to match the salaries. Meaning if San Antonio only wanted Fultz and Saric (and the pick), they wouldn’t have to finagle cap space figures. If you believe Fultz can be what he looked like he’d be (and I do), this is a more than solid gamble for the Spurs.
Kawhi Leonard for Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, and #1 overall pick. The Suns make this move to pair Leonard with Booker and build from there with Chandler and Knight’s contracts soon coming off the books. The Spurs make this move thinking Jackson could BECOME Kawhi (I don’t believe so, but Jackson as a rookie had some Kawhi as a rookie traits) and because DeAndre Ayton has been compared to David Robinson, and wouldn’t that be a nice way to bookend Pop’s coaching career.
Kawhi Leonard for C.J. McCollum. I know I said that its rare to see stars traded for stars, but there are three teams that have built stellar backcourts that are just stuck in the realm of being good, but not really contenders, the Blazers, Wizards, and Raptors. In each case it may be time to break up the back court and look to add a stud wing to the mix.
Kawhi Leonard for Bogdan Bogdanovic, Willy Cauley Stein, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, and Buddy Hield. In this scenario the Spurs get two known solid pieces in Bogdanovic, and Hield with the promise of Giles finally being healthy. The Kings would keep this year’s pick and Fox to pair with Leonard.
Kawhi Leonard & Pau Gasol for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poetl, Malachi Richardson and 2020 1st. The Raptors, like the Blazers would break up their backcourt. They’d also have to take back Gasol’s contract as part of the toll for getting Leonard.
Kawhi Leonard for Ricky Rubio, Jae Crowder, #21, and 2020 1st. I think Leonard would flourish in San Antonio north. A solid system in place, an emerging star in Donovan Mitchell, and a defensive anchor in Rudy Gobert, all without any of the glitz and glamour that he doesn’t seem pre-disposed too.
Kawhi Leonard & Pau Gasol for Bradley Beal, Markeiff Morris, and #15. The Wizards would get a chance to break up the backcourt, just as I outlined with the Blazers and Raptors. The Spurs would get 2 starters and the #15 pick in a draft that should have some value at 15, all the while making the Wizards take on Gasol’s contract.
All sorts of possibilities. If I were a betting man, I’d bet on the Lakers doing everything they could to pair L.A.bron with Kawhi, or the 76ers seeing him as a the last piece to get them to the finals, that veteran star who has been there, done that. Hopefully we’ll know soon enough.
- By Jason Sullivan
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