Kawhi Leonard elevated the Friday news dump to a new level, as multiple reports dropped at the same time last week saying that Leonard wanted out of San Antonio. The Trade Machine got a nice workout over the weekend as a result. After a couple of days to sort through the aftermath of Friday’s report, here are three questions about the saga:
Can the Cavs Get in on the Sweepstakes?
Cleveland’s main priority this offseason is to keep LeBron James by any means necessary. Trading for the guy who once made LeBron upset by merely checking into an NBA Finals game might be one of the few things that could swing The Decision 3.0 in the Cavs’ favor.
Cleveland.com reported Sunday that the Cavaliers are making calls to the Spurs to inquire about the availability of Kawhi. But if Danny Ainge needs a corkboard to map out all the different possible offers the Celtics could make for Kawhi, Koby Altman needs only a tiny legal pad. The Cavs may not have the assets to even sit at this table.
Their best tradable pieces are probably the no. 8 pick in this year’s draft, Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr., and Cedi Osman. OK, once you’re done laughing at how that offer compares to anything the Lakers or Celtics could put together, let’s at least entertain this. The Spurs will technically have the final say on where Kawhi gets traded, and though Los Angeles is reportedly Kawhi’s preferred location, what if they refuse to trade him there, and the only team willing to mortgage its future for a one-year rental with no future commitment is the Cavs?
Maybe that’s not a wise long-term move, but what if it kept LeBron in Cleveland for at least one more year? You’re telling me you wouldn’t be excited for Warriors-Cavs Part 5 with Kawhi in the mix?
Should Teams Be Worried About Kawhi’s Health?
Friday’s news was followed up by a report from the Los Angeles Times stating that neither the Lakers nor the Clippers have had trade discussions with the Spurs about Kawhi (the Celtics reportedly did at the trade deadline), in part because they have “concerns about the severity of Leonard’s injury,” according to the Times.
It’s hard to envision either L.A. team not swinging a deal for one of the league’s best players because of that, but Kawhi’s health is indeed still a bit of a mystery. He played only nine games this past season because of right quad tendinopathy. Details about how many of his absences were because his and the Spurs’ reported disagreements over the handling of said injury are murky, but this does raise questions about which Kawhi teams would be trading for—the MVP candidate from two seasons ago or the oft-injured one from last season? At the very least, teams will use his injury issues to drive down the price. No one is going to just throw away a treasure chest of assets for a player who has had quite an injury history, never played in more than 74 games in a regular season, and is now trying to leave his team over concerns about how they’re handling his injuries.
How Do the Spurs Factor In?
While the report surfacing about a week before the draft opens up the possibility that the Spurs may act sooner rather than later, the situation between Kawhi and the only franchise he’s ever played for first needs to be sorted out. And right now, it’s unclear whether or not the Spurs have even met with Kawhi yet despite reported plans to do so. It’s also unclear whether they’re willing to acquiesce to any trade demands.
Push might come to shove soon enough for San Antonio. The Spurs still be able to offer Leonard a supermax extension, but it seems more likely that they’ll have to weigh finding the best possible deal for the superstar against enduring another drama-filled season like the last one.