With currently the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference, the Indiana Pacers have become one of the most surprising teams in the NBA this season. Hoops Habit reports that the squad should continue their progress this summer by trying to trade for San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard.
The blog's Jonathan Macri proposed that a deal sending Myles Turner, Bojan Bogdanovic, and T.J. Leaf, plus the Pacers' 2018 and 2020 first-round draft picks, to San Antonio could be enough to persuade the Spurs to trade the former NBA Finals MVP.
Rumors abound that the relationship between Leonard and the Spurs have continued to get rocky as the player still refuses to play despite already having a clean bill of health. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that despite having a players-only meeting where Leonard's teammates "implored" him to return, the two-time All-Star was firm to remain sidelined.
Wojnarowski described the meeting as "tense and emotional at times" with Spurs players "expressing frustration and confusion" about the current state of affairs between Leonard and the ballclub. He even noted that some of the "players' voices could be heard through the door," which is indeed not a good sign.
Last month, The Big Lead's Henry McKenna reported that Leonard and the Spurs might be "headed for a messy divorce" if things do not improve at the end of the season. McKenna said that Leonard asking for a trade this summer would not be a surprise given the speculations since the beginning of the season that he was unhappy with the club.
There were earlier reports that the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year is displeased with the fact that San Antonio has failed to surround him with other elite-level players who could help him contend for more championships.
While Macri clarified that the former San Diego State standout is currently not on the Spurs' trading block, he implied that it is possible that San Antonio may be forced to trade Leonard in the coming offseason. He cited the player's declining health status, the team's ability (or inability) to sign him to a long-term contract, and the opportunity to have a fair return from a potential trade partner as factors that could affect any decision by the club.
Meanwhile, the Pacers are actually taking a risk at getting Leonard because the 26-year-old forward could choose to opt out of his contract after next season and become an unrestricted free agent. He is expected to receive offers from other teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, and Cleveland Cavaliers, who are all currently linked to Leonard.