Eric Gay/Associated Press
San Antonio Spurs swingman Kawhi Leonard is one of the best players in the NBA, and his team reportedly won’t settle for anything less than a “grand-slam offer” if it is going to trade him this offseason.
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reported the news, citing “multiple NBA executives” who suggested as much.
While a quadriceps injury limited Leonard to nine games in 2017-18 as tension built regarding whether he would return, O’Connor wrote, “If offers were underwhelming around the draft and the start of free agency, the Spurs might opt to let the saga drag into training camp, or even into the season. Leonard could always rekindle his relationship with the team or return to the floor and increase his trade value.”
It makes sense San Antonio would want such a monumental return package considering Leonard is just 26 years old and already has two Defensive Player of the Year awards, two All-NBA first-team selections, four All-Defensive team selections and two All-Star Game appearances on his resume. He also won the 2014 NBA Finals MVP.
Leonard has always been a defensive force, but he elevated his offensive approach in 2016-17 and scored a career-high 25.5 points per game, underscoring his ability to dictate the game on both sides of the floor.
O’Connor suggested “there might not be a better trading partner in the league” than the Philadelphia 76ers and noted they could offer a package that included Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Robert Covington and the No. 10 draft pick.
Such a deal would instantly alter the landscape of the Eastern Conference, as pairing Leonard with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid would be a nightmare for opponents.
The discord between the Spurs and Leonard has been a primary storyline of this season and is the reason there is even a chance the franchise could move such a talented piece before the 2018-19 campaign.
Ramona Shelburne and Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com detailed the disconnect earlier this month, pointing to tensions from the Spurs side that Leonard sought medical advice and rehabbed outside of the team.
Adrian Wojnarowski and Wright in wrote the following in January:
“Months of discord centering on elements of treatment, rehabilitation and timetables for return from a right quadriceps injury have had a chilling impact on San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard’s relationship with the franchise and coaching staff, league sources told ESPN.”
Wojnarowski also reported in March the Spurs held a players-only meeting led by Tony Parker in an effort to convince him to return to the floor before the postseason.
It didn’t work, and now the team is now in a position where it could trade him with the right “grand-slam offer.”