The NBA world got “Shams bomb” today when Shams Charania finally let the cat out of the bag. He reported that Kawhi Leonard is unhappy with the Spurs and wants a trade. This is something we should have all expected. Leonard is a top-five player in the NBA when healthy. He is an elite defender and has become a near-elite offensive player as well. In 2017, he averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
Kawhi went down with an injury in the 2017 conference finals and missed almost all of the 2018 season. Strangely, his older teammate, Tony Parker, had a similar but worse quad injury than Leonard and recovered faster. I can only believe that Kawhi has been healthy for some time and has wanted out. Kawhi’s preferred trade destination is reportedly the Lakers but nothing is guaranteed. He is also not worried about supermax money due to his feeling of “irreparable betrayal” by the Spurs. Here are five teams that could trade for the superstar forward.
Suns Recieve: Kawhi Leonard
Spurs Recieve: 2018 Pick Number One, Dragan Bender
I joked the other day about how much I would love to see Luka Doncic in a Spurs uniform. Now, that sentiment could be a reality. In my eyes, Doncic is the clear number one prospect in the upcoming NBA draft and a perfect fit for the Spurs. He is a gifted offensive player with rare vision, a developing three-point shot, and creative scoring ability and fits into the Spurs’ team-oriented system perfectly.
Manu Ginobili, whose game is similar to Doncic, and Tony Parker are two darn good mentors. And if the Spurs don’t want Doncic they can draft DeAndre Ayton, a freakish center with franchise-altering upside. San Antonio also nabs Dragan Bender, a solid young big who Gregg Popovich would love to develop. His shooting and offense will be valuable for the Spurs.
Phoenix adds a top-five player in the NBA to their roster, immediately turning them into an instant playoff team. Combined with Josh Jackson, Leonard helps form a great up and coming defensive team. You still have Devin Booker who is a superstar in the making and a scoring machine. They still have ample cap space to add a big man or a point guard in free agency like Julius Randle or Isaiah Thomas. This trade helps jump-start the Spurs’ rebuild and puts the Suns back near contention.
76ers Recieve: Kawhi Leonard
Spurs Recieve: Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, 2018 Pick 10
The 76ers are looking to take the next step in “the Process” which is adding superstar talent to their core. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid both are top 10 players in the NBA in the making. Adding a third superstar in Kawhi Leonard would make them the best team in the Eastern Conference. Leonard will essentially serve as a souped-up Robert Covington but with the ability to score at will. Adding to the madness, they 76ers would potentially have the cap space to add Paul George to that core, creating a team to contend with the Warriors.
Philadelphia is giving up quite a few assets here but it will be worth having Leonard on the roster. Following the Bryan Colangelo debacle, they will want to make a big move. They send San Antonio plenty of young assets, a top 10 pick, and Jerryd Bayless to match salaries.
Fultz’s rookie season was marred with injuries but he was the number one pick for a reason. He flashed the potential of a top point guard in this league. If any team can bring that potential out, it’s the Spurs. Dario Saric is a talented young wing who is an excellent shooter, a solid scorer, and a good passer and rebounder. In the playoffs, Saric averaged 17.2 points and 7.3 rebounds, shooting 38.5% from three. With the 10th pick, the Spurs could draft a player like Wendell Carter Jr., Collin Sexton, or Mikal Bridges. This deal makes the future look bright for the Spurs and makes the 76ers immediate title favorites.
Los Angeles Lakers
Lakers Recieve: Kawhi Leonard, Bryn Forbes
Spurs Recieve Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Luol Deng, 2018 Pick 25
This offseason, the Lakers have two main goals. Acquire superstars and lose Luol Deng’s absurd $17M contract. I’m honestly not sure which of those goals will be harder to accomplish. With this trade, the Lakers kill two birds with one stone. Without Luol Deng, the Lakers could probably get away with giving up a bit less for the unhappy superstar. Along with Lonzo Ball, who they’d give up anyways, they throw in Kyle Kuzma and the 25th pick in this upcoming draft.
Ball is an excellent playmaker with scoring and defensive potential. His rookie season wasn’t spectacular but he averaged 10.2 points, 7.2 assists, and 6.9 rebounds. His upside is undeniable and the Spurs would love to take him on. They also receive Kyle Kuzma, who shocked the world en route to an all-rookie first team season. He averaged 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds shooting 36.6% from three. Adding two budding stars and a 2018 first round pick is as good as it may get for Kawhi Leonard.
Los Angeles adds a top-five player in the NBA in Kawhi Leonard. In getting rid of Luol Deng’s contract, the Lakers will have the opportunity to sign one or two massive free agents, the likes of LeBron James, Paul George, and DeMarcus Cousins. This immediately puts them back into title contention and could even make them the favorite over the Warriors.
Celtics Recieve: Kawhi Leonard, 2018 Pick 18
Spurs Recieve: Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, Guerschon Yabusele, 2019 Kings First Round Pick
Boston is absolutely loaded with young assets and Danny Ainge hasn’t been afraid to wheel and deal. It could be time to finally turn their assets into a superstar like all of us have expected to happen. Boston was 48 minutes away from the finals without their two best players, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Adding Kawhi Leonard to this core including Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier, and Al Horford will make Boston immediate 2019 title favorites.
The Spurs take on a young star in Brown who has shown primary scorer potential. Last season, he averaged 14.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, shooting 39.5% from deep. He is also a very solid defender and has shown playmaking upside. The Spurs add three solid role players in Morris, Baynes, and Yabusele, who all made a big impact in the 2018 playoffs for Boston. They also acquire the 2019 Kings first, which could easily be a top three pick in next year’s class. This trade sets the Spurs up for the future and gives Boston a superteam.
Los Angeles Clippers
Clippers Recieve: Kawhi Leonard
Spurs Recieve: Tobias Harris, Sam Dekker, 2018 Pick 12, 2018 Pick 13
The Clippers are a dark horse team to acquire Leonard but they have the assets to do so. LA doesn’t have any stars or top picks but they have talented young role players and two lottery picks to make use of. They send away Tobias Harris, two 2018 lottery picks, and Sam Dekker to make the salaries match. Harris established himself as a valuable scorer in 2018 for the Clippers. 19.3 points, six rebounds, and 3.1 assists shooting 41.4% from beyond the arc. They also acquire two lottery picks in this draft loaded with talent high. They would be in a position to acquire players like Collin Sexton, Miles Bridges, and Kevin Knox, all who have star potential.
The Clippers add Leonard, a top-five player in the NBA. They would want to resign DeAndre Jordan and potentially use the rest of their assets to trade for another star. They would have completely turned their roster around from the Blake Griffin and Chris Paul days for the better. Kawhi Leonard surrounded by role players such as Avery Bradley and Patrick Beverly could be a team that every West contender has on upset alert.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts.