Kawhi Leonard trade rumors have dominated sports. Even with a relatively understated free agency period for LeBron James, the NBA has managed to take over the summer, as Leonard's future hangs in limbo.
The Lakers have been thought of as the favorite to land the Spurs superstar when he becomes available. However, numerous reports indicate that it is no sure thing that he'll walk away from his next team. We just saw the Paul George situation play out the way it did. That puts pressure on the Lakers to still try and make a move, and for another team to try and pull of what the Thunder did with PG.
We've outlined five of the top potential Kawhi Leonard trades that could happen.
These trades all work, or would require one side to get rid of less than $200,000 in salary, via ESPN's NBA Trade Machine.
Los Angeles Lakers:
When the drama between Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs began, the Lakers were almost immediately identified as the team to beat. Kawhi is from Southern California, the Lakers were already gearing up to go after LeBron James and other big names like Paul George. It makes a lot of sense.
The Spurs have reportedly asked for the Lakers to back up the truck to land Kawhi. A recent report named the price as Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, two first round picks, and two pick swaps.
Considering the Lakers will likely be the favorites for Leonard if/when he hits free agency, the Lakers are definitely not going to give up that haul. However, if they wait the Spurs out, they might be able to get the price down significantly. Ingram is the biggest piece, and it has been suggested that he is the linchpin for both sides.
If the Lakers get some sort of reassurance that Leonard will be 100-percent ready to play this season, and know that he'll sign long-term, parting with Ingram in a lesser deal is probably worth it.
Spurs get: Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Luol Deng, Two First Round Picks
Lakers get: Kawhi Leonard
Ingram is a bitter pill to swallow. However, in this scenario, the Lakers avoid having to give up Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, two big assets on cheap rookie deals. They would also move off of the horrific Luol Deng contract. The Spurs would have to shed a small amount of salary elsewhere to make this work, according to ESPN's trade machine.
Los Angeles Clippers:
Various reports have indicated that Kawhi might not really want to play alongside LeBron James. The Clippers have also been floated as a potential option for Leonard. Of course, they won't want a free agency bidding war with the Lakers if they can avoid it.
The other L.A. franchise has fewer super-attractive options to give up in a deal. The Spurs could be more open to dealing with the Clippers though, and if Kawhi was to leave the team, draft picks could become super valuable, especially compared to the Lakers' considering the team will have LeBron James.
Spurs get: Tobias Harris, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Two First-Round Picks
Clippers get: Kawhi Leonard
Harris has been a really strong NBA player for a while now, and brings versatility that Popovich has to like. Gilgeous-Alexander was a first-rounder in this year's NBA Draft, and has really impressed in summer league. Short of other top assets, two firsts would probably be included here.
A few days ago, Zach Lowe floated the Raptors as the "most logical all-in play on the board." Now, the team is the definitive betting favorite, with even odds over at MyBookie. The Spurs have the second-best odds at +400.
Lowe's proposal was DeRozan, who has a 2020 player option, a young up-and-comer, and a first. With that model, here's what a trade could look like:
Spurs get: DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, First Round Pick
Raptors get: Kawhi Leonard, Marco Bellinelli
The Raptors upgrade from DeRozan to Leonard, and hope that a potential NBA Finals trip can keep him around long-term. Toronto has not been a huge free agent destination, but the stars who have gone recently, like DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, seem to like it. Anunoby is only 20-years old and has serious potential. For the Spurs, DeRozan would give them the second star that they didn't have last season, with Kawhi sitting out, and if he leaves Toronto, that future first rounder could be huge, depending on when it is, and what protections are on it. Bellinelli, who just signed for a second stint in San Antonio, makes the salary swaps work.
The Sixers can rival the Lakers in making a deal for Leonard that wouldn't totally scrap the core of the team. In fact, the Lakers would probably lose more in Ingram than what the Sixers could put together without their two untradable guys: Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Philly would be taking a gamble in adding a player that may not want to stay out East, but with a healthy Kawhi on the same team as Simmons and Embiid, it is hard not to see them as an NBA Finals favorite for years to come.
ESPN's Chris Haynes has also reported that Kawhi could be open to staying with Philadelphia if they do acquire him.
Like the Lakers situation, we've seen some crazy proposals including one that would involve Dario Saric, Robert Covington, 2017 first overall pick Markelle Fultz, and three first-rounders. Like the crazy Lakers trade, that just won't happens.
Philadelphia's offer is reportedly Saric, Covington, and one first-rounder.
If Philadelphia waits out the Spurs, they can potentially get something in the middle.
Spurs get: Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, First Round Pick
76ers get: Kawhi Leonard
Fultz is reportedly improving this off-season. If he gets over what is being called "the yips" with his jumper, he could be special. However, Ben Simmons is the de facto point guard on the team. Plug in Leonard, and add some shooters, and the 76ers are deadly, while the Spurs get a very nice haul that should at least result in three, if not four, long-term rotational guys.
Of these five, the Celtics have gotten the least play. However, there is a true superstar-for-superstar swap that could happen, and it would absolutely melt the NBA corner of the internet.
Spurs get: Kyrie Irving, First Round Pick
Celtics get: Kawhi Leonard
The Celtics would be taking a risk, trading a potential future problem for a current one. Irving has already made it known that he will test free agency, though that doesn't mean that he would leave the Celtics. Terry Rozier impressed after Irving's season ended due to injury, and adding Leonard would give the Celtics an absolutely terrifying defensive starting five, with plenty of offensive firepower to boot. The team would be able to switch everything, which would be huge in a potential NBA Finals match-up with the Warriors.
The Spurs were reportedly one of the teams that Irving was interested in going to when he demanded his trade from the Cavaliers. While he might still become a free agent when his player option comes up after next season, the Spurs could probably feel better about this option to retain a superstar than others.