Today is a sad day for the entire city of San Antonio, as disgruntled forward Kawhi Leonard reportedly confirmed that he wants out of the storied franchise.
Multiple accounts of Leonard’s supposed displeasure with the team has been surfacing for a while now and judging by the string of recent events, it looks like the once match-made in heaven partnership will soon end in an ugly breakup.
Despite only suiting up for 9 games for the Spurs this season after suffering a leg injury and going through an “injury management” phase, Leonard would still draw considerable interest from all 30 NBA teams, given that he is still one, if not the, best two-way player in the league today.
San Antonio, of course, won’t let go of their golden goose so easily without maximizing his trade worth. It is also worth noting that Leonard appears to have all the cards in his hands, with just one season (and a player option) left on his current contract.
Although his fate with the Spurs is pretty much still up in the air, FOX Sports PH lists the top five most ideal landing spots for ‘The Klaw’.
New York Knicks
The odds of Leonard bolting San Antonio to play for New York might be a long shot, but it’s not actually as impossible as most people seem.
New York, after all, is still the mecca of basketball, while the city’s rich culture is alluring enough for every NBA player.
But offering a decent enough trade package would be challenging for New York considering they don’t have the most attractive assets right now, aside from injured star Kristaps Porzingis.
The Knicks could offer a deal surrounding the No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft along with promising players Tim Hardaway Jr. and Frank Ntilikina, but even that might not be enough.
A Leonard-Porzingis duo is indeed a formidable core, but the latter’s ACL injury is healing slower than anticipated and he could be out for the entirety of the 2018-2019 season.
With an abundance of prime assets, the Boston Celtics should be in the running for the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes.
General manager Danny Ainge could possibly present San Antonio with the most tempting offer, consisting a package of athletic forward Jaylen Brown and one of the team’s three lottery picks in the 2019 draft. Boston can even sweeten the deal by adding one or two more serviceable players from their rotation.
The team currently has a log jam of wing players, but Leonard’s possible arrival shouldn’t be much of a problem since head coach Brad Stevens runs a position-less system.
Jumping ship to Boston might just be one of the best options for Leonard, as teaming up with a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, plus Al Horford and Jayson Tatum might just be too good to pass up.
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In terms of long term potential, Philly seems to be the place to be, with its young superstars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid seemed poised to take over the league in the coming years.
The Sixers also have enough cap space to absorb Leonard’s max salary without needing to send money to the Spurs.
A player of Leonard’s caliber, however, would merit an even bigger return, in which Philadelphia can offer a package involving Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington, and Dario Saric. The team also has several future first-round picks, including the 10th pick in this year’s draft.
Despite interests from multiple Eastern Conference teams, Leonard can actually stay in Texas and remain a title contender with the Houston Rockets.
Leonard would easily fit with dominant ball handlers Chris Paul and James Harden, as he is one of those rare superstars who can be efficient playing off the ball.
A two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Leonard could also sort out Houston’s shortcomings on the defensive end since he has the capability to cover the Golden State Warriors’ four All-Stars.
But crafting a deal to snatch Leonard from San Antonio would be easier said than done, as the Rockets don’t have the same assets that the other teams have.
GM Daryl Morey can still pull it off if he’ll be willing to gut his roster and part ways with the likes of Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, and possibly even Clint Capela.
Los Angeles Lakers
A homecoming seems to be the most probable scenario for Leonard, especially since he reportedly named the Lakers as his preferred destination.
The team is primed to score big in this off season’s free agency war, setting sights on two other available superstars LeBron James and Paul George. With Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka calling the shots, acquiring all three is actually a feasible option.
The team will clear massive cap space once they unload Luol Deng’s ridiculous contract and can even save more if they decide not to bring back Brook Lopez and Isaiah Thomas.
The team might also have to part ways with some of its young promising core, but it seems like incoming third-year player Brandon Ingram is the only one untouchable.
But the dream scenario in LaLa Land might have to be put on hold, since Gregg Popovich is reportedly hell-bent on not helping out Western Conference rivals, especially the Purple and Gold.