A Kawhi Leonard Sleeper Trade Suggestion

Project Spurs illustration/Associated Press

The Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes have begun this summer and that has everyone coming out of the woodwork with trade scenarios. However, there is one that has not been talked about that might give the Spurs the kind of scoring punch they need while also keeping some cap space open for down the road.

We’re going to start with some background on each team’s cap space situation before we really get into it though. The San Antonio Spurs are about $25.1 million over the salary cap after the Marco Belinelli signing and Rudy Gay re-signing. The other team that I have in mind for a trade — the Orlando Magic — are now in a similar boat as they are over the cap by $2 million after agreeing to terms with forward Aaron Gordon on a four-year, $84 million deal.

With that knowledge, we know that the Magic can take on some contract dumping while also taking on a superstar in Kawhi Leonard. So here’s the big trade idea. The Magic get Kawhi Leonard, Pau Gasol and the draft rights to Chimezie Metu as well as a potential draft pick, while the Spurs would get Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic and a Magic future draft pick.

This would be a win for the Magic as it would give them a legitimate chance to get to the playoffs after a six-year postseason drought. They would be over the cap by $5 million and still have access to their non-tax mid-level exception ($8.6 million) and their bi-annual exception ($3.3 million) and they would have some great veterans to help out their new coach in Steve Clifford. Not to mention Gasol’s contract will run out after the 2019-20 season if they waive him, freeing up the Magic to make a run at a big free agent with close to $38 million in cap space if Leonard declines his player option.

For the Spurs, this keeps them in playoff contention, even in the Western Conference. It keeps them about $15 million over the cap and still gives them some great, young players to work with on the roster. Fournier can play small forward if needed while Vucevic can play center and move LaMarcus Aldridge back to his preferred position of power forward. The 27-year old Vucevic also gives the Spurs some much-needed youth in the front court as well as some scoring out of the post when Aldridge doesn’t want to go down there.

Fournier is on a contract that pays him $17 million over the next three seasons while Vucevic is set to make $12.75 million this coming season and then will become a free agent. Should the Spurs like him they can try to re-sign him or can just let him walk if they don’t like the fit and get a solid one-year rental that didn’t cost too much. Meanwhile, the Spurs can get rid of a monster contract for a 37-year old Gasol and get a clearly disgruntled Leonard to a team in the East so they don’t have to see him that often during the regular or postseason.

What has to be appealing for Spurs fans here is that they will have close to $31.5 million in cap space come next summer and could really go after a huge free agent should they choose to do so. For the Magic, you get a one-year Leonard rental and of course have the year to convince him that they are heading in the right direction with their recent drafts and low-risk, low salary free agent acquisitions. Frankly, it’s an opportunity to be relevant for the first time since Dwight Howard left and the public relations boom might be enough to kickstart a much needed new era of winning in Orlando.

This trade is a total shot in the dark, but it could be one that would work for both teams and even become a win-win both ways down the road. Of course, R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich will only make a deal they feel comfortable with so this may not be the most ideal one they could conjure up, but it is one that could be fun for San Antonio in the end.


  1. Nice article/idea – I appreciate the scholarship here and the fact that the proposals are well considered and realistic – unlike a lot of other sites and commentary.

  2. Also: the 76ers have completed the last two transactions in Free Agency: adding a couple of Forwards (Bjelica & re-signing Johnson) and collecting some more draft picks. To me, that sounds like getting ready to making a more serious Kawhi offer with Saric and/or Covington plus picks.


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