According to the San Antonio Express News, Yahoo! Sports, and ESPN, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard has asked to be traded.
Leonard and Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich were expected to sit down and discuss his future with the franchise before next Thursday’s June 21 draft.
According to ESPN, Leonard and Popovich have kept communication with each other over the last few weeks, but they never had the expected sit down face to face meeting.
ESPN and USA Today are also reporting that Leonard’s camp has not informed the Spurs of his desire to be traded.
Leonard will make $20 million this season and he has a player option next summer for $21 million.
According to ESPN, Leonard’s preferred destination is to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Clippers, and Sacramento Kings are also rumored to have interest in Leonard if he becomes available.
There’s two different viewpoints to look at when determining which side has the most leverage in trade negotations:
Leonard’s side: Because Leonard can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, he can threaten teams that want to trade for him that he won’t re-sign with them long term, which would make it risky for those teams to put their best offers together for Leonard.
Spurs’ side: The Spurs will seek out the best possible package they can get for Leonard, regardless if he tells the trading team he won’t re-sign. Teams like the Kings and Celtics can put together intriguing packages because of the future draft picks they hold. The Kings for instance have the 2nd overall pick in Thursday’s upcoming draft. That pick could be used to select Slovenia’s 19-year old Euroleague MVP Luka Doncic.
Though the influx of news came rather quickly Friday afternoon, the Spurs will have to sit back and really see where their future is headed. Is there even a slim chance they can still repair the relationship with Leonard? When will they start having trade proposal discussions? One would assume they’ll know those answers heading into draft night.