The Dallas Mavericks are going to do their best to find a legit star to team up with Luka Doncic. Meanwhile, two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard will likely opt out of his contract and hit free agency next month.
While there’s been widespread speculation that Leonard will opt to re-sign with the Clippers, another season without an appearance in the NBA Finals for the team could expedite his departure from Southern California.
After beating the aforementioned Mavericks in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the Clippers took out Utah Jazz in the conference semifinals before falling to the Phoenix Suns with Kawhi Leonard sidelined to a knee injury. There’s now an open question whether the Leonard and Paul George pairing in Los Angeles is working after two seasons.
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer is also reporting that the Mavericks are planning to make a major play for Leonard this summer.
Below, we look at three ways Leonard heading to Big D could work.
Kawhi Leonard sign-and-trade to the Dallas Mavericks
This would be the likeliest scenario given cap rules around the Association. Right now, Dallas is projected to have roughly $21 million in space. That won’t be enough to sign Leonard outright. Meanwhile, NBA rumors continue to point in the direction of the Mavericks moving off injury-plagued big man Kristaps Porzingis with drama apparently brewing between him and the organization.
That would be the starting-off point to bring Leonard to Dallas. In fact, the salaries would pretty much match. From there, the Mavericks throw in a youngster like Josh Green and a couple draft picks to entice the Clippers. At the very least, a core two of George and Porzingis wouldn’t make Los Angeles completely irrelevant in the Western Conference.
Dallas Mavericks make room for Kawhi Leonard by trading Kristaps Porzingis
There’s also a scenario in play that suggests Los Angeles wouldn’t even want to acquire Porzingis given his injury issues, defensive struggles and bloated contract. If that were indeed the case, the Mavericks would then have to turn their attention to selling off Porzingis’ contract to a team with a ton of cap room.
Perhaps, the Miami Heat could make sense in a salary dump. They are likely to decline the options on Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala. Front office head Pat Riley and Co. also need to change up a roster that disappointed big time in 2020-21. In order to land Leonard, Dallas could entice the Heat with a draft pick or two while they pick up Porzingis’ bloated contract.
Dallas Mavericks sign Kawhi Leonard outright
This might be the easiest scenario for Dallas to acquire Leonard. With $21 million in cap room, the Mavericks would need to clear up about $18 million to sign the future Hall of Famer. While it’s easier said than done, enticing rebuilding teams with draft picks in order to shed salary could make sense.
Under this scenario, Dallas looks to the Oklahoma City Thunder and their $47 million in cap space. General manager Sam Presti has been all about stockpiling draft picks. Acquiring a first-rounder and change to take on the salaries of Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber would make sense. In turn, the Mavericks find themselves in a position to sign Kawhi Leonard outright.