The drama in San Antonio finally comes to an end when the Spurs traded disgruntled superstar Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a top-20 2019 protected first-round pick. Before the deal became official, one of the NBA teams who emerged as the top suitor for Leonard was the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Sixers have a plethora of interesting trade assets that could convince the Spurs to make a deal, and with their reluctance to send Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Lakers and other Western Conference teams, Philadelphia became the favorite landing spot for the All-Star forward. Zach Lowe of ESPN revealed that the Sixers offered Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and the Miami Heat’s 2021 unprotected first-round pick, but the Spurs were demanding a trade package including Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid.
“Philadelphia’s potential package of Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 pick didn’t move the needle. It’s unclear if the Spurs had interest in Markelle Fultz; the two sides never discussed him seriously, and the Sixers would not have parted with him, sources say. The Spurs made it clear any deal with Philly would require Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid (likely Simmons), and the Sixers weren’t going anywhere near that, league sources say.”
When the rumors about the Sixers’ interest on Kawhi Leonard spread, Philadelphia has reportedly made three players off-limits in any trade discussion with the Spurs. These include Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid — three players who the Sixers believe will bring them back to title contention. Parting with one of those young talents, especially Simmons or Embiid, would be a disaster for the Sixers since Leonard could only be a one-year rental.
As of now, there is no doubt that the Sixers made the right decision to pass on trading for Leonard. Despite failing to acquire a superstar this offseason, the Sixers are still one of the favorite teams to fully dominate the LeBron James-less Eastern Conference next season. After being sent to the Raptors, Leonard reportedly said that he has no interest in staying in Toronto, increasing the possibility that the team has thrown away their most loyal player for someone they could lose in 2019 NBA free agency without getting anything in return.
However, Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri has a strong belief that they did what is best for the team. Ujiri is confident that Kawhi Leonard will re-sign with the Raptors when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.