San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard wants to return to his hometown Los Angeles after requesting a trade. Many initial rumors centered on the Lakers, which have plenty of young players to offer. But the L.A. Clippers have also jumped into the mix and are already offering a trade package.
According to the L.A. Times’ Tania Ganguli, the Clippers are willing to give Tobias Harris and either the 12th or 13th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
It’s unclear if this is enough to land a player of Leonard’s caliber. He was the 2014 NBA Finals MVP and is arguably the league’s best two-way player when healthy. Meanwhile, the Clippers are only offering a quality starter and a late lottery selection for an elite player.
Reports have suggested that San Antonio doesn’t want to trade Leonard to a Western Conference team. But odds are that they’ll take the best deal, especially if it’s to a (currently) non-contending team like the Clippers or Lakers.
Clippers Concerned about Leonard’s Injury
Kawhi Leonard only played in nine games last season due to a mysterious quadriceps injury. San Antonio and their medical staff’s handling of the injury is why he wants to leave.
But according to CBS Sports, neither the Clippers nor Lakers are convinced that Leonard is over the injury. He suffered a deep thigh bruise in the 2016-17 season, which has had complications ever since. One medical opinion suggests that the bruise may have atrophied and is affecting other tendons in the leg.
Here’s more from CBS:
“Neither the Lakers nor Clippers have had trade discussions with the Spurs, as both teams have concerns about the severity of Leonard’s injury. He spent several months away from the team while rehabbing, which led to public barbs from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich about Leonard’s absence — an unusual move for the Spurs.
“While the Lakers are open to trading any player on their roster, how much they are willing to give up depends on their confidence in his health.”
The Lakers have attractive young pieces like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma. But San Antonio would likely want two of these players in the Leonard trade. Making such a deal would signal the Spurs’ desire for a rebuild.
The Clippers don’t have the same caliber of young players as L.A. But they potentially have more to offer when looking at their roster and the 12th and 13th first-round picks.
Clippers could Immediately Become Title Contenders
The Clippers were surprisingly competitive last season after trading Chris Paul (offseason) and Blake Griffin (mid-season). They finished 42-40 and were in the playoff mix until the last couple weeks of the season.
Barring a trade, the team returns DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly, Avery Bradley, and Harris. Adding a piece like Leonard could instantly make L.A. a top team in the West.
The same could be true of the Lakers. Although they don’t have as many good veteran players, a year of improvement and adding Leonard could make them significantly better. Plus, the Lakers have enough cap space to make a future deal with Leonard work.