Another day, another Kawhi-related Woj bomb. Lost under the headline of Adrian Wojnarowski’s latest report that the Lakers are feeling mounting pressure to trade for Kawhi Leonard was this beautiful nugget:
“The Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers and LA Clippers are among teams who have made offers to the Spurs for Leonard, league sources said. The Lakers, the franchise Leonard wants to be traded to, did not have an encouraging initial conversation with the Spurs, ESPN reported recently.”
We don’t know what any of the offers included, though one would assume the inclusion of Robert Covington (salary), Dario Saric, and perhaps a combination of Zhaire Smith, the 2021 Miami pick, their own 2019 first round pick, and Jerryd Bayless (salary). I’m firmly in the camp that the Sixers do not want to trade Markelle Fultz under any circumstances. I also don’t know if San Antonio would entertain any deal that doesn’t include the former #1 overall pick. If I’m the Sixers, I’d have to be certain that Kawhi would sign an extension and that the Spurs would take Jerryd Bayless’ $8 million salary as part of any trade, especially one including Fultz.
Boston still holds an arguably more attractive stash of future first round picks (as many as four in the 2019 draft), and tradable young players including Jaylen Brown or stars like Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Would Danny Ainge be so ruthless to trade one of the headline-grabbing stars from a year ago? Perhaps. Irving is in line for a max deal in the next year and Leonard would represent a pretty significant upgrade over Hayward.
I wouldn’t consider the Clippers a real threat in the Kawhi sweepstakes. Their most attractive assets include recent pick Jerome Robinson, Pat Beverley, and Tobias Harris. Their pick stockpile is practically non-existent, and unless their plan is to tank in year one of Kawhi’s tenure, their own picks wouldn’t be very attractive.
The Cavaliers’ inclusion in this list is laughable to me, though I can’t blame them for trying. Collin Sexton represents a good, young, cheap prospect. The rest of the deal gets a bit tricky for the purpose of matching salaries. Maybe San Antonio likes Jordan Clarkson and Cedi Osman, though that doesn’t represent nearly enough value. George Hill’s salary is essentially a direct match, but again, that doesn’t represent anywhere near equal value. Could San Antonio try to flip Kawhi for Kevin Love and future picks? They could do worse.
What about the Lakers, you ask? They have plenty of blossoming players in Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball (sort of). If I were the Lakers, I’d be hesitant to trade Ingram unless I know for sure that Kawhi would sign an extension (likely, considering his roots in the area) and LeBron or Paul George would sign a max deal. Though, speaking of the former:
— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) June 27, 2018
There’s also a belief in NBA circles that teams like the Lakers and Sixers, who have been connected to Kawhi/LeBron, might benefit from striking a deal in a trade for Leonard in order to swing the chances of signing LeBron into their favor. It’d be hard to argue against the Sixers’ pitch to LeBron under those circumstances: Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard. A perfect blend of size, athleticism, and youth. LeBron could presumably cut back his minutes in the regular season and gear up for an Eastern Conference Final clash with the Celtics and a finals showdown with the Warriors or Rockets. Not a bad way to end his career.
The Ringer‘s Kevin O’Connor recently did an excellent breakdown of how the Sixers could acquire both Leonard and LeBron James, including a hypothetical sign-and-trade for James. He included scenarios of acquiring LeBron first or Kawhi first and the potential ramifications of either deal. It’s worth a read.