Now that his San Antonio Spurs are on the verge of being swept out of the playoffs for a second consecutive year, rumors continue to heat up about Kawhi Leonard’s future with the team.
We already know that there’s a growing rift between Leonard and his organization over the quad injury he suffered in last year’s playoffs. It’s led to speculation that San Antonio might look to move on from the franchise stalwart altogether. In this, multiple teams have already expressed interest.
Should Leonard be moved this summer, these are the eight likeliest trade scenarios for the former NBA MVP candidate.
Los Angeles Clippers
Details: Leonard for Tobias Harris, Patrick Beverley and two first-round picks
The Clippers will reportedly put together a package for Leonard this coming summer. It makes sense in that the team blew everything up by trading both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin over the past several months. Existing in the nation’s second-largest media market, adding a star player to the mix has to be the team’s ultimate summer goal.
There’s no question whether Leonard would fit in with the Clippers. Rather, it’s all about whether the team can put together a package to San Antonio’s liking. In this scenario, Los Angeles sends both of its lottery picks this year and two solid rotational pieces for Leonard. Specifically, Patrick Beverley’s defense is something that Gregg Popovich and the Spurs covet.
Details: Leonard for Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, T.J. McConnell, Justin Anderson and a first-round pick
Rumors continue to persist that Philadelphia will make a major run at LeBron James in free agency. Based on what we’ve seen from this team’s young core thus far in the playoffs, that seems highly unlikely. There’s no real reason to blow up said core. Instead, the process could continue with Philadelphia bringing in a guy that will fit into the system rather than be the system.
To say that Philadelphia has the trade chips to make this deal possible would be an understatement. It would start with young Euro star Dario Saric, who fits well in with the Spurs’ MO of cultivating talent from across the pond. Philadelphia could then ripen the deal by adding the first-round pick it acquired from Phoenix (via the Lakers). That will more than likely be a top-10 pick.
Details: Leonard and Pau Gasol for Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and a first-round pick
Much like Philadelphia, the Celtics have a treasure trove of trade chips at their disposal. And while the team has in in the past pushed back against the idea of dealing either Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown, a player of Leonard’s ilk isn’t made available all the time. He’s more valuable than Kyrie Irving in that Leonard provides elite-level ability from the wing and on defense. That’s a big deal.
In this specific trade scenario, Boston sends Tatum and former All-Star Al Horford as well as a first-round pick to team Leonard up with Kyrie Irving. To make the contracts work, Boston also acquires grizzled veteran Pau Gasol to replace Horford inside. It just makes too much sense.
Los Angeles Lakers
Details: Leonard for Luol Deng, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and a first-round pick
The Clippers aren’t Southern California’s only basketball team to be interested in Leonard. In fact, the Lakers could very well make a strong push for Leonard while being able to still retain the possibility of adding two other max-contract players in free agency. It would, however, require the team to sweeten its offer as a way for San Antonio to pick up Luol Deng’s bloated contract ($36.8 million over the next two seasons).
In this, Los Angeles would likely have to offer up both Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, two of the team’s top young players. The idea would be to add Leonard to the mix with a combination of LeBron James, Paul George and/or DeMarcus Cousins. This deal only works for Los Angeles if it’s confident in landing two of those three above-mentioned players.
Details: Leonard for Khris Middleton, Thon Maker and a first-round pick
The idea of teaming Leonard up with Giannis Antetokounmpo has to be appealing to the brass in Milwaukee. Unfortunately, this team is a bit handcuffed by the deal that brought in Eric Bledsoe early in the season. Said deal required the Bucks to give up a future first-round pick. The good news here is that the pick isn’t this year.
Not only would this deal give San Antonio a potential All-Star caliber player in Middleton, it would enable the team to bring in a high-upside 21-year-old center in Thon Maker for Gregg Popovich and Co. to groom. Add in this year’s first-round pick and its an under-the-radar hypothetical trade offer.
Details: Leonard for Andrew Wiggins, Taj Gibson and two first-round picks
It’s really apparent that the Wiggins’ experiment in Minnesota simply isn’t working out. Mere months after signing him to a max contract extension, Wiggins has proven himself incapable of turning the corner from the one-dimensional player we’ve seen thus far in his still young NBA career. A change of scenery really should be in the cards here moving forward.
What better way for Wiggins to learn the fundamentals of basketball than under Gregg Popovich? It really is a match made in heaven. Add in two first-round picks, and this is a deal San Antonio would have to jump on. From a Wolves perspective, the idea of teaming Leonard up with Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns has to be extremely appealing.
Details: Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge for Blake Griffin, Ish Smith, Stanley Johnson and a first-round pick
Would San Antonio take on Blake Griffin’s contract? That’s the million-dollar question here. Trading Leonard would potentially be a way for the Spurs to start a rebuild, not to reload. At 29 years old, Griffin shouldn’t be the central focus of a rebuild.
That’s until we realize the Spurs themselves might simply look to reload and contend over the short term. If so, Griffin brings a great all-around game to the table. San Antonio would also be able to move on from the extension it signed Aldridge to while picking an expiring Ish Smith contract and a first-round pick.
Details: Leonard for Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, Jared Dudley and first-round pick
It’s not a secret that Phoenix plans to be active this summer after finishing the past regular season with the NBA’s worst record. An attractive destination in the growing desert community, the likes of Blake Griffin have considered Phoenix in the past. It’s in this that Arizona would potentially be an attractive option for Leonard over the long term. Let’s not even get into the fact that Phoenix has assets on top of assets to pull off a trade of this ilk.
In reality, this might be the best package of the bunch we focus on here. Jackson and Bender are both 21 or younger. Each of them boasts a tremendous amount of upside. Meanwhile, San Antonio would also pick up the expiring contract of Jared Dudley and Phoenix’ top pick in the 2018 NBA draft, the latter of which will more than likely be in the top two. From a Suns perspective, they get another star player to team up with Devin Booker.