The two-time Defensive Player of The Year, and two-time All-Star, Kawhi Leonard will most likely be on the move before this season begins. After an injury sidelined him for most of last season, Leonard has asked for a trade. These are the teams that are most likely to be home to Kawhi Leonard come the beginning of the 2018-2019 season.
What Team Will Kawhi Leonard Play For This Season?
Kawhi Leonard’s current team, and NBA home for the first seven years of his career. Although there is lots of turmoil within the organization lately, the Spurs are still determined to hang onto Leonard. He has become the face of their franchise and they will only trade him for the right offer. Despite Leonard’s attempts to free himself from the storied organization, the Spurs have expressed their desire to make amends with Leonard before the season begins.
It’s unlikely that Kawhi Leonard remains with the Spurs long-term, especially with his upcoming free agency in the summer of 2019. After Leonard made it known that he would leave the Spurs in free agency for of a team in Los Angeles, specifically the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio has lost leverage in trades making it more difficult to get a good deal for the two-time All-star. Leonard has appeared disgruntled with the Spurs organization, and if he isn’t traded this season, he will almost certainly leave in free agency.
Leonard has declared multiple times that he wants to be in Los Angeles next season, with his preferred destination being the Lakers. Kawhi Leonard is from California and played basketball at San Diego State University for two seasons. Leonard also grew up a Lakers fan. The Lakers will have the cap space and flexibility to sign him next season, or they could trade away young assets and multiple draft picks to try to acquire Leonard this year.
Lakers newest superstar, LeBron James, will need another star to help him contend for a championship this season. The Spurs and Lakers have been in trade talks recently, but don’t seem close to making a deal right now. Rumors suggest that the Spurs have asked for a combination of the Lakers’ young talents to go along with multiple draft picks. It is unknown if Leonard will be a Laker this season, but they will definitely be in the hunt for Leonard in the 2019 free agency.
Often referred to as, “the other team in Los Angeles” the Clippers, along with the Lakers will also attempt to land Leonard this year. Rumors say Leonard would be content on the Clippers because they still reside in his desired location of Los Angeles. Recent reports also state that Leonard wouldn’t want to be a member of the Lakers now that LeBron James is there.
The only issue with Leonard becoming a Clipper this year is that they have very little to give in trades. It would already be hard enough for the Spurs to trade Leonard within their conference but it is much less likely to happen with the poor return they’d receive from the Clippers. The Clippers could offer a package of Tobias Harris, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Jerome Robinson. The Clippers also can’t offer any first-round picks due to the Stepien Rule, which states that teams aren’t allowed to trade their first-round picks in consecutive years. This would not be a very enticing offer to the Spurs, which is why the Clippers find themselves on the outside looking in.
Boston has the most assets out of any team on this list, therefore the most potential to trade for Leonard this season. However, Leonard has said he will only re-sign with teams in Los Angeles. This means that the Celtics would risk trading away their best young players for a one-year rental of Kawhi Leonard. Celtics GM Danny Ainge has recently made it clear that Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, and Jaylen Brown are off the table when it comes to trade negotiations.
Instead of offering up their core pieces, the Celtics would be willing to part with their draft picks to acquire Leonard. However, San Antonio has made it known that they want a combination of draft picks and players in order to stay relevant in the playoff picture. With Hayward and Irving returning from injury, the Celtics will be favored in the East with or without Leonard and will have a chance to compete for a title without jeopardizing their future. Ainge has also said that a blockbuster trade for Leonard would be “unlikely” since the two teams aren’t yet close to an agreement.
The 76ers are looking for another superstar to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The Sixers have assets to trade for Leonard but without the guarantee of him staying more than a year, makes it harder for them to make a deal. The 76ers could offer Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Richaun Holmes, and draft picks to the Spurs in return for Leonard. This package includes the young players that San Antonio is seeking but doesn’t contain the superior talent that the Spurs want in order to contend right now.
The 76ers will need to add another piece in order to successfully come out of the Eastern Conference. They should be aggressively pursuing Kawhi Leonard this year and next year. Without another true star on the roster, the 76ers could be stuck behind the Celtics in the East for the foreseeable future. After missing out on Paul George and LeBron James in free agency, acquiring Kawhi Leonard through a trade would give the Sixers the biggest two-way player in the league right now, capable of helping them reach the Finals once again.
March 03, 2016: San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) dunks the ball during the NBA game between the San Antonio Spurs and the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)