The San Antonio Spurs might eventually be forced to trade Kawhi Leonard this summer because of the rumored tension between the two parties. If the Spurs decide to move on from Leonard, there will be no shortage of suitors as all teams are likely to make a bid for the two-time All-Star on the trade market.
Teams are expected to come up with enticing trade packages, knowing that Leonard could instantly bring significant improvement. However, Matt Burke of Metro USA does not think the Spurs will trade Leonard to the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers, who are among the teams that are tagged as ideal landing spots for the 26-year-old.
Burke pointed out that San Antonio is a "proud franchise" in the league. This means that the Spurs are unlikely to help the Lakers speed up their rebuilding process by trading Leonard to Los Angeles. The Rockets are also one of the powerhouse teams in the league, and the Spurs are not expected to make them even stronger, knowing that they could face them in the playoffs, or at least three times in a season, down the road.
Burke is convinced that if the Spurs decide to part ways with Leonard, they would strongly consider trading him to an Eastern Conference team. He named the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks as potential landing spots for the former San Diego State standout.
The 76ers, who are now among the top teams in the Eastern Conference, have the assets to make a deal work. Burke said that Philadelphia could offer young players, such as Markelle Fultz and Dario Saric, in a possible deal for Leonard. Giving up Fultz and Saric might look too costly, but adding Leonard to the roster headlined by rising superstars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid would make the 76ers a perennial contender in the next several years.
On the other hand, the Knicks also have some attractive assets to offer. Burke cited the possibility of trading their 2019 first-round pick along with a young prospect like Frank Ntilikina. The trade would give the Spurs another elite talent to pair with Kristaps Porzingis.
Leonard has only played nine games this season due to a quad injury, which raised questions about the state of his relationship with the franchise. Rival teams are expecting that the Spurs would consider moving him this summer. In fact, Brian Windhorst of ESPN said on Outside the Lines that several general managers told him that they would reach out to the Spurs after the 2017-18 NBA season about a possible Leonard trade, according to RealGM.