Trading for Kawhi

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What Would Possible Package Deals for the Spurs Superstar Look Like?

With San Antonio engaging in trade talks regarding Kawhi Leonard, a few teams have emerged as possible destinations for the Spurs’ unhappy franchise player. Here is a look at the players and picks that are being floated right now, and whether or not such deals would fit each team’s needs:

Los Angeles Lakers

With Leonard reportedly preferring to play in L.A., the Lakers have emerged as frontrunners for his services. Given Leonard’s stature, Los Angeles would have to part with at least one member of their treasure trove of solid young talent, in addition to other assets.

On Wednesday, ESPN explained that a “substantial” package would be required to nab Leonard. Such a deal is said to include at least one of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart, combined with a future first-round pick and perhaps restricted free agent Julius Randle in a sign-and-trade agreement.

As of the most recent update, the Lakers were said to be willing to include Ingram in a potential trade, a change from earlier reports. According to the Washington Post, the team has also been in talks with the Nuggets regarding a deal that would involve the Lakers taking on salary in exchange for a pick from Denver.

Would a deal make sense for both sides? Obviously, the Lakers would be getting a bonafide superstar (though one with injury concerns), that could help them attract further free agents (eg. Lebron).

What about the Spurs? Both Ingram and Kuzma are tantalizing talents, and if anyone can help them reach their considerable potential, it is Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. However, it would take more than that to replace Leonard and set the team up for the future. Denver’s pick is not likely to be particularly high, while Randle is not ideally suited to the modern NBA, and the Spurs already have LaMarcus Aldridge at a similar position.

So the Lakers might have to sweeten the pot a bit. Perhaps including both of Kuzma and Ingram, combined with the aforementioned additional assets, could suffice.

Boston Celtics

The Lakers’ historic rival, the Celtics, have been rumoured to be a major player in the Kawhi sweepstakes.

Already boasting a wealth of stars, Boston is further along the championship path than the Lakers and can, therefore, offer Leonard a more immediate shot at a title. However, the fact that they are already well set up to contend could make them hesitant to offer too much to San Antonio.

Indeed, Boston’s young duo of 20-year old Jayson Tatum and 21-year old Jaylen Brown will not be available anytime soon, according to the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett. Additionally, the Celtics only would trade their rights to the Sacramento Kings’ 2019 first-round draft pick (protected for No. 1 overall) if the deal involves “the right overall transaction pieces.”

Despite Terry Rozier‘s playoff breakout, a deal for Kyrie Irving doesn’t seem likely either, says the Herald.

Perhaps taking Leonard’s health into account, Boston seems to be taking the cautious route, preferring to stay the course. If a deal happens, it would presumably include Brown, Tatum and a pick, none of which the Celtics seem particularly willing to part with.

Philadelphia 76ers

Featuring two potential franchise players in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, Philadelphia is an intriguing destination.

According to Sports Illustrated, a Sixers team source claims talks with San Antonio revealed the Spurs are strongly interested in a package involving forwards Dario Saric and Robert Covington, as well as a future first-round pick. A similar offer includes Saric, Covington and the 2021 Miami Heat unprotected first-round pick the Sixers obtained in their draft-night deal with the Phoenix Suns.

“How do you acquire things that can attract stars and develop stars?” Sixers head coach Brett Brown told reporters on the eve of the draft. “That pick might be the key to all of this. That pick might be the thing that links a possible trade.”

However, sources also state that Philadelphia seems hesitant to part with the two players, both who have become vital members of a still-improving squad.

Still, such a trade could work for both teams. Philadelphia would get the star that they have been seeking to put them over the top. Covington could become a favourite of Pop, with his 3-and-D capability proving to be an excellent fit. Saric can shoot too, and his game took a big step forward this season. Finally, Miami’s pick could very well turn out to be a lottery pick, something heavily valued in today’s NBA. The Spurs could choose to use it, or they could trade it off for a star of their own.

So Philly could prove to be an eventual trade partner, despite Kawhi’s  supposed west coast preference.

Or he could end up in L.A., or Boston, or somewhere else. Maybe the Spurs patch things up against the odds, and Leonard stays. Each possibility is very interesting and holds numerous pros and cons for both sides.

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