Not even 10 days since the beginning of free agency, most of the major questions entering the NBA’s much-anticipated 2018 off-season have already been answered.
While there are restricted free agents still available, the biggest names in free agency have found homes. LeBron James, as many expected, closed his latest Cleveland chapter and took his talents to Hollywood with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kevin Durant re-upped on a short-term deal with the Golden State Warriors, Chris Paul returned to the Houston Rockets on a four-year mega contract, and Paul George broke the bank re-signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
On the trade front, we saw European teen rookie sensation Luka Doncic get dealt on draft night, while role players like Austin Rivers and Marcin Gortat swapped teams, Dwight Howard landed in Washington, and Wilson Chandler was moved to the Philadelphia 76ers.
But the biggest trade piece in the NBA remains on the market. Kawhi Leonard is still a San Antonio Spur… for now.
The Leonard-Spurs saga has seemingly lingered for months now. With San Antonio in no rush to move its disgruntled superstar, the drama could drag on throughout the summer — and beyond.
Leonard has been closely linked to the Lakers given his reported desire to play in Los Angeles, but the James signing has complicated that option for the Spurs, who are understandably hesitant to hand L.A. what would arguably the NBA’s top duo and help them to instant title contender status.
The Spurs reportedly are asking the world for Leonard from the Lakers — packages including L.A.’s top young players and a pile of draft picks — and don’t appear willing to budge or negotiate much. Meanwhile, other teams who can put together a competitive trade package, like the Boston Celtics, are rumoured to be happier holding onto their assets for now.
To further complicate things, it’s been reported that the Spurs brass doesn’t want to trade the 27-year-old former Finals MVP to another team in the West. It’s expanded a surprisingly small list of potential trade destinations to include possible front-runner Philadelphia, as well as a new team that could be entering the mix.
According to Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post, reporting from the Summer League in Las Vegas where the NBA’s general managers tend to gather this time of year, the Toronto Raptors are making some noise in the Leonard trade front:
The Toronto Raptors also generated buzz as a potential destination for Leonard. With LeBron James out of the Eastern Conference, perhaps Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri is willing to swing for the fences and move DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry in such a deal.
As mentioned, any potential deal with San Antonio will likely have to include an all-star like DeRozan or Lowry, along with a package of young players and picks.
While the Raptors may be making some noise, reports are that the 76ers remain atop Leonard’s list. Part of the reason why teams could be hesitant to offer the motherlode for Leonard is that he is entering the final year of his contract and may amount to a one-year rental player for teams. Leonard is reportedly not against re-signing with Philadelphia next off-season, but the same might not be said of other potential trade suitors — especially considering the Lakers are positioned to have ample cap room next summer when Leonard hits free agency.
Leonard appeared in just nine games last season due to a right quad injury that limited him to just over 23 minutes and 16 points per game.