30 NBA players who were traded before becoming stars

Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady
Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady / Lisa Blumenfeld/GettyImages
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2. Kawhi Leonard

NBA star Kawhi Leonard was initially drafted by the Indiana Pacers but was traded on draft night to the San Antonio Spurs in a deal for George Hill. The deal was meant to save the Spurs money, with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Richard Jefferson all making at least $12 million, with the salary cap set at around $50 million and not expected to increase much in the short term.

In fact, in many ways, it is identical to the Harden trade that sent Harden to the Rockets, except Leonard quickly proved to be better than the player he was traded for and eventually emerged as a two-way star for the Spurs.

The Spurs hoped he could be a 3-and-d wing, but his rapid ascent helped the aging big three of Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and San Antonio extend their dominance. With Leonard, they would make the Western Conference Finals a total of four times, including two trips to the NBA Finals and a title in 2014.

In seven seasons with the Spurs, he would win consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards, an NBA Finals MVP, a championship, and make two all-star teams before he forced them to trade him. While things didn't end well for Leonard and the Spurs, they still have a championship to show for his time with the team.