It’s no secret that the biggest issue surrounding the San Antonio Spurs at this point in time is the possibility of losing Kawhi Leonard, whether in free agency or via a trade. If the Spurs lose Kawhi it would ideally happen through a trade where they can at least get something in return for him. Of course the best case scenario for San Antonio is that Kawhi signs his max contract extension this summer and stays in the Alamo City for the rest of his career, but fans have to be preparing for the worst.
With a potential trade on the horizon and NBA teams circling the two-time defensive player of the year, the Spurs have to begin to figure out what exactly they would consider an appropriate trade package for Leonard. Clearly the Spurs won’t let him go on the cheap and will likely hold out for a monstrous deal.
76ers Receive: Kawhi Leonard
Spurs Receive: Dario Saric, Markelle Fultz, 2018 1st-Round Pick (via Lakers)
With the 76ers on the rise, adding Kawhi could move them from knocking on the door in the East to knocking it down completely. With Ben Simmons running the offense and Joel Embiid holding it down in the post, Kawhi would have free reigns to dominate on the wing and capitalize on offensive opportunities that would be opened up to him with a crafty, pass-first point in Simmons.
The Spurs would be gaining much needed youth and athleticism in Saric and Fultz. Saric has shown a lot of upside in his young career and could learn a lot from Lamarcus Aldridge, being another big man that can space the floor and shoot. Fultz, although he didn’t play much this year due to injury, displayed flashes of excellence and is still seen to have loads of potential. He could heavily contribute to a backcourt that lacks star-talent. And with the #10 pick in this year’s draft, the Spurs could land a solid prospect that could add more youthful talent to an aging roster.
Celtics Receive: Kawhi Leonard
Spurs Receive: Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, 2019 1st-Round Pick (via Grizzlies)
Clearly the Celtics will be fine if they don’t acquire Leonard, but can you imagine how great they would be if they did? They would be losing two keys pieces to their team’s success this year in Brown and Tatum, but a lineup with Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward, Kawhi Leonard, and Al Horford is just too good to pass up. There’s no doubt that Brown and Tatum have great NBA careers ahead of them but besides the Warriors, there’s not a single team that could compete with that potential lineup on a nightly basis. Acquiring Leonard would catapult the Celtics back to the promise land and keep them there for years to come. This trade would allow the Celtics to further their already legendary status as one of the best sport franchises in history.
After Irving and Hayward went down with season-ending injuries, Brown and Tatum took their opportunity and ran with it. At 20 and 21 years old, this duo could possibly be leading their team to the NBA Finals. The two biggest areas of improvement for the Spurs right now is youth and athleticism, and with the addition of Brown and Tatum, those problems would be nearly completely erased. If this season was just the beginning for these two, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were to further the Spurs dominance for the next 15 years. With Brown, Tatum, and a probable top-10 pick in next year’s draft, the Spurs could find themselves completely skipping the rebuild phase and jumping right back into contention all within the span of one offseason.
Suns Receive: Kawhi Leonard
Spurs Receive: Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, 2018 1st-Round Pick
The Suns have not won at least 25 games in the past three seasons. It’s time for a change. A big one. They have one All-Star caliber player in Devin Booker and that’s it. They’ve been in the rebuild stage ever since the departure of Steve Nash and it doesn’t look like much progress has been made since then, if anything things have gotten worse. With the acquisition of Leonard, the Suns would be instant contenders to make the playoffs, but not much more, they would still need to add more pieces to contend for a title. Although, a pairing of Booker and Leonard would no doubt prove to be problematic for other teams to defend. Leonard and Booker would become cornerstones for Phoenix to rise from the ashes of rebuilding and would make a strong case for future talented free agents to join them.
Jackson and Bender are strong prospects that need work, but they have a lot of potential. Not much light was shed on them this season, but that was due in large part to the Suns terrible performance as a team, not them individually. Both had decent seasons that they can build upon. If there’s one franchise in the NBA that could unlock their potential and turn them into some of the NBA’s best players it’s the Spurs.
The #1 pick in this year’s draft is the most notable piece in this trade. DeAndre Ayton is beginning to look like a lock for the top spot and the Spurs could desperately use someone of his size, athleticism, and presence in the post. He looks like a modern day David Robinson and if Ayton turned into anything like Robinson, San Antonio would be more at ease with losing Leonard. A pairing of Aldridge and Ayton in the post would be an imposing force to be reckoned with and a troubling match-up problem for any team.
Los Angeles Lakers
Lakers Receive: Kawhi Leonard
Spurs Receive: Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, 2019 1st-Round Pick
The Lakers look like the ideal landing spot for Leonard, who is originally from the LA area. The Lakers would be slow to offer up much of their current young talent unless they were sure that Leonard would re-up with them whenever his current contract expires.
If they do roll the dice and attempt to land Leonard via a trade, their team would be lifted out of the rebuild phase and into playoff contention. With the acquisition of Leonard this summer, the Lakers would still have enough cap space for one more max contract. The top two candidates for this summer’s free agency period is Lebron James and Paul George. If the Lakers could land Leonard and then sign either James or George, they would become instant championship contenders. With a talented young core already in place, Leonard, along with James or George, could come in and immediately take over the reigns of this team and put LA back in the forefront of the NBA. For them to sustain their probable success they would need to continue to acquire youthful talent, as they would become slightly thinned out as an overall unit after this trade.
Ingram, Hart, and Kuzma all showed signs of potential this past season. Both Ingram and Kuzma averaged about 16 PPG, while Hart averaged 8 PPG. All have the potential of developing into solid, consistent players that heavily contribute, but Ingram is viewed as someone that could develop into a perennial All-Star. He’s drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant with his long, slender frame and big-time scoring ability. Now it’s just a matter of putting him in the right system, with the right coaching, and allowing him to develop him into KD 2.0.
All three of them add much needed youth and athleticism, and they all have the potential to come in right away and contribute to the Spurs return to dominance.