With Kawhi Leonard demanding a trade from the Spurs, teams around the league are scrambling to put together a trade package to acquire the All-Star, and former Finals MVP. The issue for most teams is whether they would be able to lure the superstar back for another year, as he has a player option after the 2018-19 season. Leonard’s option to leave his new team after only one season has put many teams off trying to acquire him, as they would have to give up serious pieces of their future in order to do so. However, there are still many teams willing to take the risk, realizing what a player like Kawhi could do for their team long-term should he choose to stay. Here are my top trade scenarios for The Claw.
Los Angeles Lakers
Spurs Get- Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Luol Deng, and Moritz Wagner
Lakers Get- Kawhi Leonard and Bryn Forbes
Why it Works: Kawhi Leonard has named the Lakers as his top choice to where he wants to be traded so he would be more likely to re-sign with them than with other teams, and he would help them attract top-tier free agents this off season. The Spurs would get two players and a pick that could be key to rebuilding an aging team that has no young players with All-Star potential.
Why it Doesn’t Work: The Lakers have spent years rebuilding this team, and it is unsure if Magic Johnson will be willing to give these young players up when they have a few superstars considering signing with the team already.
Los Angeles Clippers
Spurs Get- Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Jawun Evans, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Jerome Robinson
Clippers Get- Kawhi Leonard and Bryn Forbes
Why it Works: The Clippers get a centerpiece to rebuild their franchise after, and he wants to play in his home town so there is a better chance he stays. The Spurs get some young players with potential and two shots at getting a steal in the lottery.
Why it Doesn’t Work: The Spurs could get much more in return for Leonard and there is nothing stopping him from moving across the Staples Center to the Lakers locker room at season’s end.
Spurs Get- Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, Guerschon Yabusele, and Robert Williams
Celtics Get- Kawhi Leonard
Why it Works: The Spurs get a future All-Star in Jaylen Brown and a couple of good role players in Morris and Baynes. The Celtics get a superstar to add to a team that almost went to the finals without Kyrie Irving or Gordan Hayward.
Why it Doesn’t Work: The Celtics bench would get much thinner and the Spurs would be putting a lot of faith in Jaylen Brown to blossom into a player close to Kawhi’s caliber.
New Orleans Pelicans
Spurs Get- Nikola Mirotic, E’Twaun Moore, 2019, 2020, and 2021 first round picks
Pelicans Get: Kawhi Leonard
Why it Works- Kawhi Leonard could potentially turn the Pelicans into a championship team alongside Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins. The Spurs get a player with great potential in Mirotic and three chances to get a future All-Star in the draft.
Why it Doesn’t Work: Demarcus Cousins is an unrestricted free agent and is not even guaranteed to return to New Orleans, which is a massive risk. Even if he does return, they are giving away their future if this thing doesn’t work. The Spurs would be putting a lot of faith in three players that might not even be in college yet, so who knows how those picks would turn out.
Spurs Get- Kevin Love, Ante Zizic, Larry Nance Jr., and Colin Sexton
Cavaliers Get- Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills
Why it Works: The Cavs get one last effort to keep LeBron on the team and try to make another title run, and the Spurs get a few key pieces to their Post-Kawhi future.
Why it Doesn’t Work: Even if the Cavs manage to land Kawhi, there is still a good chance LeBron leaves, and if LeBron leaves then Kawhi will likely leave the following season. If this trade does happen, the Spurs will need to get a very good player with the eighth pick for this trade to be worth it.
The best trade for both teams involved would be the New Orleans Pelicans, should they be willing to take the risk. The trade would give the Spurs a good foundation to build a future with Nikola Mirotic and three first round picks. It would also create a team to challenge the Warriors for their throne next year with a big 3 of Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, and Kawhi Leonard. Any team besides the Lakers and Clippers will be taking a massive risk, but a player of Kawhi’s caliber could change the culture of a franchise completely. Even if none of these trades happen and Kawhi goes elsewhere, you couldn’t ask for a better way to kick off an offseason that should be one for the history books.