WELL this is awkward. The San Antonio Spurs are in a position we aren’t used to seeing them in. For once there is drama and turbulence surrounding the club and not just with any player, with their best player. Reports and rumours emerged this afternoon that Kawhi Leonard has requested a move from the Alamo State and wants to join the Los Angeles Lakers. This is a story some were expecting, but still, it sounds weird to hear it for real. With both sides eager to make a deal work there is a way for the Spurs and Lakers to walk away happy.
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OTHER teams will definitely try their best to acquire the Spurs superstar, despite claims he wants to be in LA. The Celtics are the best poised to orchestrate a deal with assets to burn. Danny Ainge has shown he isn’t afraid to swing for the fences, but apparently, San Antonio just turned down a recent offer. Things might be different now.
TEAMS like Portland, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and perhaps even Cleveland will come calling. I would love to see a world where Kawhi and Giannis Anteokounmpo were on the same team leading to a style of play that is equal parts beautiful and terrifying. The Clippers could even be tempted to sway Leonards jersey preference but I can’t see that happening.
ANY future negotiations start and finish with Brandon Ingram in my opinion. The 20-year old took another big leap in his development this past season and there’s no reason to think he won’t be a star in the league. Of course, his potential is widely known and admired making him a very valuable player. Rob Pelinka wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t try and get Kawhi without giving up Ingram though. A package including one or maybe both former rookies Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball, with the addition of Deng’s contract and picks, might get it done but I think that San Antonio will want as much as they can get for the former Finals MVP.
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FROM a schematic perspective parting with Ingram makes the most sense for LA too. Sure, he might be the best player on their roster, but getting Kawhi Leonard is a fine consolation prize for losing the Duke alum. With Ingram as the centerpiece, it’s likely that San Antonio will ask for Lonzo as well. This is where the Lakers will plant their foot though countering by adding Kyle Kuzma. Josh Hart could be another asset included in the deal and another cheap Spur (probably Derrick White) might be moved also.
FOR the salaries to match up though, San Antonio would have to take on Luol Deng’s contract, which might be the worst in the ENTIRE league. We will be owed over $32 million in the next two years and he has barely played in the last few seasons. However, that could mean he would be fresh if a team were to add him to their mix. Through gritted teeth, R.C. Buford agrees with the addition of the Lakers unprotected first-round pick next season.
Spurs get: Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Luol Deng, 2019 1st round pick
Lakers get: Kawhi Leonard, Derrick White
KAWHI could probably have been traded for more before these reports surfaced, which hurts the Spurs. It isn’t a secret stating Leonard wasn’t chuffed about the season he just had in San Antonio and they may have been able to pry a few extra assets away if a deal was reached outside of the spotlight. Good luck. The cat’s out of the bag and now they have to try and salvage something for the MVP candidate before he walks for nothing at the end of next season.
LET’S not forget though that the Cavs were in this exact scenario last year and trading Kyrie Irving killed them. They still had Irving contracted to their roster for another season and imagine if he was flanking LeBron in the Finals? But I digress. San Antonio still holds a lot of the bargaining chips and as we saw with the LaMarcus Aldridge saga not long ago, Popovich can change the minds of his star players and convince them to stay put. This scenario seems to be broken beyond repair but if anyone can do it Pop can.
THIS mysterious quad injury hasn’t led to pleasant times for both parties and a fresh start might be a good idea. If Leonard was to land in LA then it would just add fuel to the fire that LeBron is a goner from the Cavs. However, this isn’t a LeBron piece and this news is HUGE in the context of the offseason. Could we see a team pull a blockbuster trade off on draft night? Maybe. One thing is for sure the first fireworks are about to go off in what’s going to be a captivating offseason.
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