The departure of Kawhi Leonard in the San Antonio Spurs is inevitable despite Coach Gregg Popovich’s effort to convince him to sign a massive contract extension. Though most people expect Leonard to become officially available on the trading block this summer, the Spurs made it clear that they are only willing to send the disgruntled superstar to Eastern Conference teams.
According to Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report, the Philadelphia 76ers are one of the NBA teams who could express interest in trading for Kawhi Leonard this offseason. The Sixers have a plethora of interesting trade assets that can convince the Spurs to engage in a blockbuster deal. The potential acquisition of Leonard may also increase their chance of signing Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James in the upcoming free agency.
“The Sixers are one of the teams widely believed to be pursuing James, and adding Leonard to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid could bolster their case. They have as attractive a foundation as anyone in the league, and head coach and acting general manager Brett Brown spent 11 years as an assistant under Popovich on the Spurs coaching staff.”
In the proposed trade deal by Bleacher Report, the Sixers will be sending Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless, and the Miami Heat’s 2021 first-round pick to the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard. Highkin also suggested the inclusion of Spurs point guard Patty Mills to match the Sixers’ outgoing salary.
The deal is undeniably a no-brainer for the Spurs. They will be trading a player who no longer wants to stay with the team for promising talents that could help them speed up the rebuilding process while keeping them competitive in the Western Conference. Markelle Fultz could regain his shooting touch with the help of the Spurs’ strong player-development staffs. If they manage to build a good chemistry, Fultz and Dejounte Murray could become the next version of Tony Parker-Manu Ginobili backcourt duo in San Antonio.
Robert Covington may not be as explosive as Kawhi Leonard, but he could fill his absence on the defensive end of the floor and give the Spurs a reliable three-point shooter in the wing. Dario Saric could team up with LaMarcus Aldridge in the Spurs’ frontcourt. Playing under Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich could help Saric further improve his game and develop into one of the most dominant big men in the league.
Meanwhile, successfully acquiring Kawhi Leonard will undoubtedly make the Sixers the top favorite team to represent the Eastern Conference in the 2019 NBA Finals, especially if LeBron James decides to leave the Cavaliers. However, the Sixers could be risking lots of valuable assets for a one-year rental. Leonard has informed NBA teams who are interested in trading for him that he plans to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.