If things continue to go south between Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers and Thunder would surely be interested in the former NBA Finals MVP’s services. A trade for Leonard may actually not be as pricey as one might think as Leonard has just one year left on his current deal and has a significant injury history. The Lakers, who could potentially pair Leonard with LeBron James this summer, would be able to offer much more than Oklahoma City given their assets.
With the Spurs actually fighting for a playoff spot this season (they’re currently in the seventh spot and are just two games away from falling out of contention), this summer is lining up to be the most tumultuous in literally two decades. A full rebuild is not out of the question for San Antonio GM RC Buford, so a team like the Lakers would make plenty of sense when it comes to a blockbuster trade.
The Spurs would not want anything to do with Lonzo Ball and his dad, but Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma would be mighty appealing. LaMarcus Aldridge, who flat-out asked Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich for a trade last summer, could then also be dealt out of San Antonio. The return for players of Leonard and Aldridge’s caliber would set up the Spurs nicely for the future.
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As for the Lakers, while Leonard and LeBron technically play the same position – expect LeBron to be more of a 4 or even a 5 in the twilight of his career.
The NBA is currently in an era of position-less basketball, which means even adding a third traditional “3” should not be ruled out (hello, Paul George). A starting five featuring LeBron, Leonard, George and Ball would instantly have to be considered a title contender.
Speaking of George, it’s becoming less and less likely that he returns to the Thunder next season despite the team’s recent uptick in play. But don’t expect Thunder GM Sam Presti to be meeting this scenario with doom and gloom. The Thunder’s plan for the next five years-plus is to use a trial and error scenario – placing All-Star level talent next to Russell Westbrook and seeing if it’s the right match.
Expect both George and Carmelo Anthony to walk this summer, but for Presti to be active in the trade and free agent markets once again.
All of these dominos hinge on the Spurs gauging whether or not the relationship with Leonard is salvageable or not. Spurs fans are not happy, so much so that Pau Gasol is offering up apologies and excuses for Leonard before he even plays. We haven’t heard much about how Popovich and the Spurs front office views the situation lately, but these quotes from last month remain intriguing.
“Is this all building toward a showdown that winds up getting Leonard – who so many of us thought was the perfect Spur and a future MVP – traded in the off-season? These are the sorts of questions people around the league are asking about in San Antonio, which hasn’t endured drama on this level since the early days of Duncan’s career.” – NY Times NBA reporter Marc Stein
“San Antonio could lose one of the NBA’s best players for nothing. The other option is they could trade him. Even with just one year remaining on his deal, even with the injury issues he’s had this season, there would be teams lining up to take a risk on Leonard – and willing to part with significant assets to do so. Players like him don’t come along every day.” – Tom Bontemps, Washington Post