Kawhi Leonard trade rumors: 7 potential destinations for Spurs star

Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images
Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images /
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Kawhi Leonard trade rumors
Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images /

With Kawhi Leonard trade rumors circling the 2018 NBA Draft, it’s time to take a look at seven hypothetical trade destinations for the San Antonio Spurs star.

After an unsettling year in which their superstar was at odds with one of the NBA’s most prestigious franchises and only suited up for nine games, San Antonio Spurs fans’ worst fears were confirmed last week: Kawhi Leonard wants out.

According to Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year and former Finals MVP wants to be traded away from the Spurs, the team that traded for him back in the 2011 NBA Draft and has nurtured him ever since.

Though Leonard has flourished under head coach Gregg Popovich and the mentorship of future Hall-of-Famers like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the way the team handled Leonard’s quad injury displeased the star wing, as did his teammates’ and his coach’s less than flattering comments about his absence from the team.

At 26 years old, Leonard is perhaps the best two-way player in the NBA when healthy. There are concerns over his long-term health, but if he’s able to move past this injury setback, Kawhi is an NBA champion, two-time All-NBA selection and two-time finisher in the top-three for MVP voting, and he’s barely entering his prime.

In his last healthy season, the Claw led the Spurs with a career-high 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game on .485/.380/.880 shooting splits for a 61-win team. He’s an elite two-way player, a stifling defender, an elite iso scorer and one of the game’s best all-around players when healthy.

With Leonard requesting a trade, the Spurs are in a tough spot. They can still dangle a five-year, $219 million super-max extension, as ESPN‘s Zach Lowe reports they are, but could risk losing him for nothing in free agency next summer if their faith in repairing the relationship goes unrewarded.

However, the Spurs wont be in a rush to deal him either. They likely won’t consider trading him to a team on the rise in the Western Conference, nor have they lost leverage simply because Kawhi has a preferred trade destination.

Rather, the potential lost leverage lies in teams being unwilling to submit their best offers because of his injury history, his desire to return to California in 2019 (if necessary) and his problems with one of the most well-respected front offices in the entire NBA. If the Spurs couldn’t keep him happy, it’s worth wondering if anyone outside of his preferred destination will be able to do so.

In any case, NBA Draft day is all about speculation and hypothetical trade scenarios. Not all of these are likely, but with the Kawhi Leonard trade rumors swirling, it’s time to take a look at seven potential destinations for the superstar wing, what it would take to facilitate a deal, and why these proposed moves wouldn’t come to fruition.