Examining Kawhi Leonard’s Upcoming Payday


 Are you enjoying the San Antonio Spurs’ current 19-game winning streak? Of course you are.

The Spurs have the best record in the NBA by four games with only seven left to play. I bet you wish we could just fast forward to the Western Conference Finals right now. Because, honestly, are you scared of any team in the NBA at this point?

But let’s look beyond that. Fast forward through the draft and Adam Silver struggling to pronounce some European prospect’s name, that the Spurs just picked up with the 30th pick in the 1st round. Fast forward through this summer’s free agency, where the Spurs are rumored to be in the running to sign LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, but end up grabbing some bench guy you’ve never heard of, who played for the Detroit Pistons.

It’s the Summer of 2015. And Kawhi Leonard decides not to accept the Spurs $4 million qualifying offer, becoming a restricted free agent.


Currently, the Spurs have $8.5 million committed in salary to the 2015-16 season, all going straight to Tiago’s bankroll. Also, for “fun”, let’s accept the depressing reality that Tim and Manu won’t be around anymore. Don’t worry about the rest of the roster, it will fill itself out. Your priority is to resign Kawhi Leonard. Does the 2011 1st round pick get a max deal?

Leonard has improved himself in nearly every single statistical category each year, minus his free throw shooting this season. The 12.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game on 52% field goal shooting, will all be new career highs. And he’s doing that while only playing 29 minutes a game, two minutes per game less than last season. The only real concerns about his ability at this point are: A) How much of the offense can he shoulder on his own, and B) His health.

Popovich has made it clear that he envisions Leonard as a Spur for life, and that Kawhi is one of his favorite players…eerily similar to comments Pop used to make about George Hill. But when it came time for Hill to cash out, he was immediately traded to Indiana, and is now Larry Bird’s $8 million a year problem.

Don’t get me wrong. The trade initially benefited everyone involved. But down the line, how much is too much for Kawhi? R.C. Buford and company are so financially responsible, they have prime Tony Parker making $12.5 million a year, while the aging Kobe Bryant deposited over $30 million this year alone, for six games played.

But it’s too soon to tell where Kawhi’s value lies. Even if the Spurs overpaid him, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to try and build around him. San Antonio’s cap situation in 2015 will allow them to pay the would be 24-year-old Leonard whatever they please. Kawhi Leonard is a blue chip stock. They just need to find the perfect pink sheet stocks to build around him. (Reference Wolf of Wall Street: Check.)

It all depends on if Kawhi gets his advice from Jay Z lyrics. Would you rather be underpaid or overrated?

(h/t TrueHoop TV for the topic)
(All salary figures courtesy of ShamSports)

About John Diaz

John is a University of Houston student studying journalism and a jack of all trades (but master of none) for the Project Spurs Network. His other titles include managing editor of Spurs on Sixth and associate editor of Texas Redzone Report. You may follow him on Twitter @byjohndiaz.