With the NBA free agency market opening on July 1st, there are a lot of unique headlines going into the off-season. One aspect to pay attention to is the situation between the San Antonio Spurs and superstar Kawhi Leonard, who recently requested a trade out of San Antonio. With all that in mind, should the Spurs pull the trigger and trade Kawhi Leonard?
After missing the first 27 games of the season due to a right quadriceps injury, Leonard averaged 16.2 points, 2.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 2.0 steals in only nine games played. In an injury-riddled season, Leonard could not produce to the same degree in comparison to the year before. Without Leonard on the court, the Spurs were not the same team, and even though they made the playoffs this past season as the seventh seed, San Antonio was put to rest by the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors in a mere five games.
In his six seasons in the NBA, Leonard has made his mark in the league as one of the best small forwards in the game. With his two-way efficiency, it’s no wonder why Kawhi Leonard has been on the radar of multiple franchises.
On January 5th, Leonard suffered a partial tear in his left shoulder. Luckily for San Antonio, Leonard was a back in action on January 13th after missing only three games. Four days after however, Leonard was ruled out for an indefinite period of time in order to continue his rehabilitation process from right quadriceps.
During his treatment, there was tension between Leonard and the rest of the team. While he was gaining treatment, the Spurs doctors cleared him to play in select games, only to have Leonard decide to have a second opinion on his injury in New York.
After this upcoming season, Leonard is expected to become a free agent, and according to reports, Leonard is looking to receive a max contract which will cost teams roughly $100+ million. Even though San Antonio can offer a “super max” of $219 million over five years, Leonard is determined to move on from San Antonio.
Outside of Leonard, San Antonio doesn’t contain any young potential for years to come. With that in mind, the first thing the Spurs needs to look into when trading away Leonard is to aim for young players that the front office can build around.
There are obvious suitors for Leonard, and those in the mix include the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers, and even the Los Angeles Lakers. According to reports, Leonard has placed the city of Los Angeles as his top destination during potential trade talks.
Although Leonard wants out of San Antonio, the team has the upper hand in this dispute at the moment. With no clause in Leonard’s contract, San Antonio’s front office holds a lot of power in this situation. Unless a bargain offer is in their laps, I don’t expect for the Spurs to move on from Kawhi Leonard until the NBA Trade Deadline.
Mark Sobhani/Getty Images