I can’t be the only one who finds it comical that everyone is throwing all these fantastic Kawhi Leonard trade options at the wall – Dario Saric, Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington and the future #1 pick (or Zhaire Smith, whom they just drafted) seems to be the most popular – but the most important part isn’t mentioned: Unless Kawhi Leonard is signing anywhere long-term, no smart GM is trading for him.
This needs to be stressed: This Kawhi Leonard situation is not last summer’s Paul George curveball. For starters, Leonard is a better player at both ends, and he’s younger. Also, look at what Paul George was traded for! Oklahoma City did not give up any draft picks. They did not give up a Top 10 pick on a cheap contract.
The Thunder gave up Victor Oladipo and his 4-year, $84 million contract. Given the poor year Oladipo had in OKC (15.9 ppg on 44/36/75 shooting), the deal was considered incredible at the time … for the Thunder. The deal was Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis (11th pick in 2016) to rent Paul George for a year. Free agents have historically not gone to OKC, so the rental was worth it.
If Paul George bounces to the Lakers, as I’ve been saying for a year, it’s not the end of the world for the Thunder.
The risk of ‘renting’ Kawhi without future guarantees is far too great for Eastern Conference contenders Philadelphia or Boston. Losing 2-3 key assets (i.e., young players such as Jaylen Brown or Markelle Fultz; potentially high future picks) on teams that are on the cusp of greatness could ruin the 76ers or Celtics before they even get to the Finals.
The guess here is that the Spurs refuse all trades for Kawhi, think they can convince him to stay, and they lose him for nothing, the same way the Thunder lost Kevin Durant for nothing.