After Kawhi Leonard expressed his desire to be traded from the San Antonio Spurs, the model franchise had not publicly addressed the situation until after the 2018 NBA Draft. Despite recently meeting with head coach Gregg Popovich, Leonard made his intentions clear of wanting to play for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers or Clippers via trade or free agency.
Heading into the 2018 NBA Draft, there was the possibility of the Spurs parting ways with Leonard as they were listening to offers. However, they ended up selecting Miami guard Lonnie Walker with the No. 18 pick and USC forward Chimezie Metu with the No. 49 pick.
Following the draft, general manager R.C. Buford finally discussed Leonard and how the team will handle his trade request, via Jeff McDonald of San Antonio Express-News:
“Kawhi and his family mean a lot to our organization and to our community,” Buford said. “While none of us would wish we are where we are, we are going to do what we can to build the best relationship we can with him. We will explore all of our options, but the first one would be to keep Kawhi as part of our group.”
With Leonard in the final year of a five-year, $94 million contract, Buford does not have a timetable on a potential trade:
“I don’t know that timing is a factor in this,” Buford said. “He is under contract for another year. Our goal is to keep him as part of our program for a long time.”
For the Spurs, they can ideally wait until next year’s trade deadline to move Leonard. However, if San Antonio wants any value in return, not many teams will take a significant risk on the two-time All-Star as he will likely be a one-year rental. Instead, the Lakers can put together an attractive package that features multiple prospects.
For the Lakers, signing Leonard in free agency is ideal but they must understand the risks associated with waiting. While Paul George wanted to return to his hometown and still has an opportunity to do so in free agency, the Oklahoma City Thunder did have the entire 2017-18 NBA season to persuade him to re-sign.
With July 1 quickly approaching, the Lakers will learn if they made the right move with George and how it impacts their stance on Leonard.
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