We don’t know the full story coming out of San Antonio but we know something is going on. Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs could be on their way to a separation and there’s no shortage of teams that would gladly take him off their hands. The team that ultimately lands him will give up a nice bounty, even if it isn’t equal value for the 26-year old star.
Coach Gregg Popovich and the Spur’s hierchy won’t just give him away however. They will be looking for the best deal they can find, probably from a team in the eastern conference. Every team could use that kind of talent but which teams have legitimate trade assets to pull it off?
Boston has been busy the last few seasons assembling a contender through all phases of transactions. They signed Al Horford and Gordon Hayward in free agency, they traded for Kyrie Irving and they drafted Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart in recent years.
The Celtics could provide a bunch of first round draft picks in the next three seasons. You’d have to figure almost everybody on the team except for Irving would be available in a potential Leonard trade.
The Celtics will no doubt try to flip Horford in a deal of this magnitude. He is making a pretty penny, set to recieve $28 million next season and a player option for 2019-2020 worth about $30 million. Its a huge contract and Boston would need it gone if they have any chance to sign Leonard long term.
If you’re the Spurs, you should demand a combination of Tatum, Brown or Smart. The latter two provide good perimeter defense which you will need in replace of Leonard. Tatum provides a go to scorer in the making, a player Popovich could develop into a star. The contracts won’t add up so a throw in player or two will be needed to complete the deal.
In either of these situations, the Celtics should be ready to part with one or two draft picks. Boston would be a great destination for Leonard. Adding a player of Leonard’s caliber with Irving would give the Celtics a ridiculous one-two punch.
The 76ers have rebuilt their franchise almost exclusively through the draft. Now they have one of the best teams in the east, full of youngsters that can play. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons look like two NBA stars very early in their careers. Embiid will start his new contract next year and Simmons will still be on a rookie deal. If the team wants to add a big contract, the time is now.
The Sixers could offer a few young players and draft picks. They own the Los Angeles Lakers’ first-round pick this off-season (unless its #1 overall) as well as their own. They could start a package centered around Robert Covington’s contract and a few picks. They would have to add another player to match up the contract money.
San Antonio would get nowhere trying to aquire Embiid or Simmons but they should request rookie guard Markelle Fultz and second year forward Dario Saric. With an aging Tony Parker, the Spurs could replace him with a point guard like Fultz with real upside. Saric is a stretch four that seems like a perfect fit for Popovich and his system. The Lakers’ draft pick they acquired will most likely be in the top ten. With the draft being very deep, San Antonio could very well draft their next superstar.
A Philadelphia team featuring Embiid, Leonard and Simmons would be heavy favorites in the Eastern Conference for years to come.
The Cavs have ran the eastern conference for the past three seasons. LeBron James makes any team he joins a contender, not only with his play, but also the pressure he puts on his team’s front office to get better. The Cavaliers have been super busy this season already making two or three big-time deals to shape a new look younger team.
The Cavs would love to unload Tristan Thompson’s bloated contract. He is owed a little over $36 million for the next two seasons (2018-2020). Cleveland gets the same kind of production from Larry Nance Jr., so Thompson’s contract is more a burden at this point. The Spurs would more than likely pass on that kind of deal.
San Antonio would probably demand more than Cleveland could offer in the end. They should start with Nance Jr. and his former Lakers teammates Jordan Clarkson. The Brooklyn Nets first round pick Cleveland acquired from Boston would be the centerpiece of any deal involving Leonard. Its likely to be a top seven pick in the loaded upcoming draft.
If the Cavaliers could pull it off somehow, it would keep the eastern conference balance of power tilted towards Cleveland. James and Leonard would make an historical pairing. The best player in the league with the best two-way player in the league, where have we seen that before?
These were a few of the teams with legitimate assets but we never know what other teams would offer. There’s probably a team ready to make a drastic move to acquire such a talent. If Leonard does become available, be prepared to see a ton of wild trade scenarios.