The disgruntled San Antonio Spurs superstar looks like he wants a fresh start, and that could come in Philadelphia if the trade package is strong enough.
Now that the Sixers are in the offseason, many have looked at ways to improve the team in order to make another run at the NBA Finals next year. The ultimate goal seems to be signing LeBron James, but if that doesn’t end up happening there needs to be a backup plan. Brett Brown said it himself, the team needs one more top player on the team in order to really make some noise in the playoffs, so going after one of the three big names on the market makes the most sense. By bringing in one of James, Paul George or Kawhi Leonard the Sixers will have a proven, bonafide star who can come in from day one and command respect from every team in the league. Don’t get me wrong, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are quickly making their way into that territory, but they still need some seasoning.
If the LeBron to Philly dream doesn’t end up coming true, there is the possibility that the Sixers go after the next best option: Kawhi Leonard. After an odd year in San Antonio that saw the franchise superstar grow distant from the team, Leonard may be in store for a trade elsewhere. Still an incredibly productive player, Leonard dealt with a quad injury that forced him out of all but nine games this past season. Whether that injury was serious enough for him to miss all of that time is still up for debate, but what has become abundantly clear is that Leonard wants a fresh start. This is only the beginning of the road for all of the Leonard to Philadelphia rumors, but at this very moment the Sixers look to have the pieces necessary to make a franchise altering trade.
The most crucial piece of any trade package is most likely going to be last years top pick, Markelle Fultz. Right now Fultz has very minimal value because of the year he’s had (pretty much the only one that can top Leonard’s in terms of weirdness), and while there is the strong possibility that Fultz can figure everything out, he still may never get to the point in his career that Leonard is at right now, and that is being a top five player in the entire league. I don’t want to give up on Fultz because I believe he will bounce back, but the opportunity to bring in another top player in the NBA doesn’t come around often, especially when you don’t have to mortgage the entire future of the team for that player. There is also the chance that Fultz never regains the form he had in college, so this offseason could be the final shot to capitalize on the value of his name and former draft pick.
Fultz won’t be the only player involved obviously, and while Leonard might not fetch the return that San Antonio would hope, he is still an elite player that will bring back a bunch of talent in any trade. You’d have to think the only two Sixers who are untouchable are the two players who would complete the new “Big 3” with Leonard, that being Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Besides that the team is still flush with talent that any team would be happy to have, and in particular there are two players that fit the mold of exactly what the Spurs have been doing for decades. Both Robert Covington and Dario Saric know their roles, and fill them incredibly well. Covington provides stellar defense as well as the ability to be a reliable second or third offensive weapon, and Saric was basically molded in a Gregg Popovich lab, a player stashed overseas who has come over and steadily produced on every level of an offense.
It is possible that the Spurs try and poach both players, but I find it extremely hard to believe the Sixers would be willing to give up two very solid staring caliber players. Especially after the contract extension Covington just signed this season, the more realistic trade piece seems to be Saric, as much as everyone wants to see the Croatian stick around. Throwing in a player with potential upside in a new location like Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot also couldn’t hurt.
You didn’t think the Sixers were getting out of this deal without giving up picks, did you? They would of course have to give up the 10th overall pick to make this trade possible, and while there are a few perfect fits that could be there at 10 for Philadelphia, the proven play of an NBA All-Star will always top that of the potential of a draft pick.
Of course this could all change in the time between now and the draft, but this package looks like one that could beat any other package from opposing teams looking to trade for Leonard. This season’s team was incredibly unique, they felt collectively like the baby of all Sixers fans. It hurts to disband the team that has brought the city back into contention, but now that the next goal is to really go for it all, the addition of a star like Kawhi Leonard would make that very attainable.