Amidst all of the NBA rumors surrounding free agency, Kawhi Leonard getting traded remains as one story worth keeping an eye on. The San Antonio Spurs star’s desire to play elsewhere has many people wondering who he will suit up for next.
One team that keeps getting mentioned as a rumored destination for Kawhi Leonard is the Los Angeles Lakers. However, it is the Los Angeles Clippers who may have a better shot at landing him. Hoops Hype is suggesting that the Clippers have made trading for Kawhi Leonard a high priority.
ESPN has reported that five teams have made the Spurs an offer for Kawhi Leonard. Most observers are expecting the Lakers to become the last team standing when the smoke clears.
Despite the Lakers’ perceived interest in Kawhi Leonard, Bleacher Report is citing that the Lakers have not put together an aggressive offer for him. That may open the door ajar for another team to trade for Leonard.
Could the Clippers sneak in under the radar and acquire Kawhi Leonard quietly from everyone’s nose?
Several factors must come into play for a Kawhi Leonard trade to the Clippers to happen. This could include help from a third team. Nothing is impossible at this point. The Clippers have to first make a concrete offer in order to be in the running for Kawhi Leonard.
Six potential trade destinations for Kawhi Leonard. pic.twitter.com/rYpGSVAYcZ
— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) June 30, 2018
In order to complete a Kawhi Leonard trade, the Los Angeles Clippers have put together a trade package centered around Tobias Harris and at least one of their promising young players. Point guard Shai Gilgeous Alexander, who was drafted by the Clippers in June, is one of the promising young players being rumored as part of the trade package for Kawhi Leonard.
Additional draft picks would also have to be thrown in to make things work. Essentially, the Clippers would have to relinquish much of the assets they had received from the Detroit Pistons in their trade of Blake Griffin. The Spurs potentially getting back a vastly underrated starter in Tobias Harris could push things along further.
Tobias Harris thrived in his brief time with the Clippers as the top offensive option among the starters. What makes it even more impressive is that the Clippers were in the playoff chase up until the final week of the season. They were being led by Harris, Lou Williams, and several unheralded players. Harris’ role with the Spurs could be similar as San Antonio would use his versatility as their second scoring option behind LaMarcus Aldridge.
Russell Westbrook "wanted to go to LA."
Paul George "wanted to go to LA."
Kawhi Leonard "wants to go to LA."
Who knows. #NBA
— Adam Kaufman (@AdamMKaufman) July 1, 2018
The Spurs hold all of the cards in the Kawhi Leonard trade discussions. Because the Spurs risk losing Leonard for nothing, they do not have to take the best trade proposal, just a good one for Leonard.
Among the five suitors for Kawhi Leonard, the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and Philadelphia 76ers can put together the best packages. Each team has young talent that can help the Spurs rebuild, but the Spurs may want to contend for the playoffs right away. This is one of several reasons why neither of them may obtain him.
Kawhi Leonard has a strong desire to play in Los Angeles. Knowing that there is a possibility that Kawhi Leonard may walk at the end of next season, neither the 76ers nor the Celtics will maximize their offers. If LeBron James leaves the Cleveland as many people are speculating, the 76ers and Celtics rise to the top of the Eastern Conference without Kawhi Leonard.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) July 1, 2018
In the case of the Lakers, they have the pieces to obtain Kawhi Leonard, but their heated rivalry with the Spurs makes consummating a trade difficult. Having history to preclude trade discussions could force things to stall or have the Spurs send Kawhi Leonard to another team.
Kawhi Leonard is not opposed to playing for the Clippers, he just wants to play in his hometown. The Clippers can provide a good landing spot for Leonard as they set up to pursue the top free agents in 2019. Players such as Jimmy Butler and Klay Thompson will be free agents next summer. Pairing Kawhi Leonard up with either of them creates a good Clippers team in position for a long run.
What also cannot be dismissed is the Los Angeles Clippers and their desire to trade for Kawhi Leonard. The notion that the Clippers are a dark horse to acquire Kawhi Leonard cannot be ignored.