Kawhi Leonard Trade: Spurs stay or LA switch?

We take a look at the suitors lining up for Kawhi Leonard on the back of rumors the soft-spoken superstar has dramatically fallen out of love with the San Antonio Spurs.

(Photo credit: Katie Haugland)

It has been a difficult season for Kawhi Leonard, who has been plagued by injuries and off-court distractions. After starting the season late with a mysterious calf injury, Leonard only managed nine games before being shut down for the season. That was only the beginning of the drama for both Leonard and San Antonio. Rumors emerged that Leonard and ‘his group’ were not happy with how the Spurs medical staff managed his injury situation. 

Communication between Leonard and the Spurs went south from there as Kawhi and his group remained adrift of the organization. That led to where we are now, which is looking into the playing future of Leonard and his possible landing destinations whilst simultaneously scratching our heads thinking how we got here.

San Antonio Spurs

Those with a touch of sentiment will hope Leonard and the Spurs are hopefully just going through a rough patch rather than a break-up. What makes it most difficult to tell is that San Antonio are almost never in this situation. They are the most well run, professional organization in the league, their reputation for an outstanding culture precedes them and they remain out of the off-court headlines. That again makes this situation even more confusing. The Spurs' film team will need to put together a montage of all the great memories they've shared to remind Leonard of these things and how great they can be together.

Sentiment aside, what the Spurs do have on their side is money. They can offer him a five-year extension worth $215 million. That's not exactly pocket change and will play a factor in Leonard's decision. Regardless of where he goes though he will command a large salary, so the Spurs will need a little more than a measly $215 million.

The problem for the Spurs is that Leonard holds all the cards. If he decides the relationship is irreparable, he is a free agent in 2019 and the Spurs will have to field trade offers just to get anything in return. Leonard will either stay or go and the Spurs are at the mercy of that decision. Reports are the wounds are too deep, but time heals and the Spurs will hope that enough time has passed that they can mend bridges and get their superstar back on board.

Los Angeles Lakers

Kawhi is from Los Angeles. The Lakers are from Los Angeles. Seems like a perfect fit. It may well be as the Lakers are loaded with cash to splash and Leonard is the big fish they are looking to lure. They have so much cash in the bank they're looking to lure another fish to the city of angels, a king fish. Rumors have been flying lately that the Lakers are looking to pair LeBron James with Leonard and for someone like Kawhi that could be an offer too good to refuse.

The Lakers have good pieces to offer the Spurs in a trade deal, too, such as their high draft picks. They have Julius Randle. They have Brandon Ingram. And who could forget about Lonzo Ball. If Kawhi wants to go and the Spurs are scrambling to make a deal, the Lakers' front office could easily package any of these assets to make the trade.

The Lakers have the glitz and glamor. This may not exactly suit Leonard's personality but what they have is the history. So many of the greats have worn the Lakers uniform and the prospect of adding his name to that list may be a tantalizing one for Kawhi. As each day passes, it's looking increasingly likely that the Spurs and Leonard will part ways. The Lakers have to be in the box seat to secure his services if they do.

Los Angeles Clippers

Who could forget about the other team in Los Angeles? The Clippers also have the LA factor to lure Kawhi home and finished the season with a better record. After blowing up their roster and trading away Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers are looking to rebuild, and Leonard would be the perfect piece to build around.

The problem for the Clippers is their lack of competitive advantage. They don't really have an edge over the Lakers. The Lakers have more money. They have more talent on their roster. They have a greater history. The Clippers have a decent amount of money and a solid roster, but not a lot of history. None of this really jumps off the page to a player of Leonard's status who is shopping around. For the Clippers to pull of landing Leonard they will need to swoop on a vulnerable Spurs franchise and bring lots to the table in a trade deal.

Boston Celtics

Danny Ainge is a front office genius. One of his greatest strengths is his honest assessment of his own situation and he knows full well that even with a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward he is still one superstar short. Leonard will fit into that team perfectly at the power forward spot and primary ball handler during Irving's bench respite. 

The Celtics will have the East factor. San Antonio would love to deal Leonard to the Eastern Conference and only have to face him two times a year. I know the saying goes keep your enemies closer, but in this caper keeping them as far away as possible may be the difference between winning and losing.

Again thanks to the genius of Ainge, the Celtics have some of the best pieces in the league. If the Spurs want high draft picks, they've got them. If the Spurs want young talent, then the Celtics can introduce them to Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier might pop by afterwards, too. The Celtics will be in a great spot should the Spurs engage in trade talk with them.

Final word

If you believe the reports, then Leonard has all but left the San Antonio Spurs. He has distanced himself from the organization and decided he will depart in the offseason. A public announcement won't be forthcoming soon, and a lot can change over that period, but it looks likely that he will ply his trade elsewhere next season. The Lakers look the likely destination for that with or without LeBron. They'll have the money, the history and the hometown factor all in their favor. 

If he departs, it will be a sad end to what was one of the better stories in the NBA. A quiet, humble kid was overlooked by many in the 2011 NBA Draft and went to San Antonio with pick 15. His length and defense earned him a special place in Gregg Popovich's heart. He worked and worked on his offensive game to become a force and one of the league's superstar players, leading his team to the ultimate glory in 2014. Now those memories are distant as the final chapter of the Kawhi Leonard and San Antonio Spurs love story looks set to feature a move elsewhere.

Where will Leonard play next season? Comment below!

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