After a season filled with drama and frustrations, Kawhi Leonard already wants his way out of the San Antonio Spurs and reportedly preferred to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Spurs hesitated to engage in a trade negotiation with the Lakers and other Western Conference teams, but the 27-year-old small forward has informed interested teams that he will be heading to Los Angeles when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.
ESPN‘s Chris Haynes (h/t Dennis Chambers of Basketball Insiders) recently revealed that there is an Eastern Conference team who has “a really, really good chance” of convincing Kawhi Leonard to re-sign in 2019 NBA free agency — the Philadephia 76ers. However, the Sixers will be needing to make a “Godfather” offer to convince the Spurs to make a deal. According to Jordan Greer of Sporting News, the Sixers could explore a trade package including Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Jerryd Bayless, and a future first-round pick.
“If the Spurs can’t convince Leonard to stay with a $219 million max contract, acquiring a former No. 1 pick and starting forward isn’t a bad recovery. Fultz is a huge question mark given all of the mystery surrounding his shot, but if he irons that out, he could become a dynamic offensive creator for years to come. The Sixers form a core of Leonard, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid to chase championships right away.”
The deal makes perfect sense for the Spurs. The acquisition of Markelle Fultz and Dario Saric will help them speed up the rebuilding process while staying competitive in the Western Conference. Despite spending the most of his rookie reason dealing with a shoulder injury, the Spurs could help Fultz immediately regain his rhythm. Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich could mold him to be the next Tony Parker.
Meanwhile, for the Sixers, pairing Kawhi Leonard with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will make the Sixers a more dangerous team next season. Now that LeBron James is playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, the Sixers should be more aggressive in upgrading their roster in order to claim the empty throne in the Eastern Conference. However, as Greer noted, the Sixers have already made Fultz, together with Simmons and Embiid, “off-limits” in any deal involving Leonard. Greer believes the Spurs are unlikely to make a deal with the Sixers if they won’t include the former No. 1 overall pick in the trade package.