The San Antonio Spurs would like to keep Kawhi Leonard in the fold, but the mercurial superstar is looking to move on. Below, we discuss a few potential destinations and the accompanying odds on those possibilities.
San Antonio Shakedown
Ultimately it will be the Spurs’ front office that decides where Kawhi Leonard plays next season, and San Antonio is included among those possible destinations. Superstar players are hard to come by and San Antonio has had their fair share from George Gervin to David Robinson to Tim Duncan with a healthy dose of upper-echelon players in-between. Leonard has not paid his dues long enough to share the rarified air of the aforementioned Hall of Famers, but his 25.5 points per game average two seasons ago suggests he’s at least capable of becoming one of the most formidable players in the league today. He already is without peer defensively.
A spate of injuries and the ensuing controversy regarding the severity of those injuries has led to a sizeable rift between Leonard and management. It was generally assumed that head coach Gregg Popovich would work his magic, play the role of the diplomat, and make nice with Leonard after he spurned the Spurs’ medical staff that cleared him to play late in the season and he sought a second opinion from his own doctors. Leonard never did return and his absence in the first round of the playoffs against Golden State had to grate on not only Popovich but players and fans alike.
Leonard has one more year left on his contract that will pay him $20 million and a player option for $21 million the following season. If he stays with the Spurs, he will be eligible for the supermax contract of five years and $219 million. But if he leaves then the most he could fetch from any other team would be $188 million over the same period of time. In other words, if Leonard forces the Spurs’ hand and gets his wish it will cost him roughly $31 million to play in another uniform. But in a bigger market, that difference can be bridged by more media coverage leading to larger endorsement deals. Regardless, it’s safe to say Kawhi won’t be reduced to a diet of ramen noodles anytime soon no matter where he signs.
The only player with more buzz being generated than Leonard surrounding his 2018-2019 future is LeBron James. However, the delicious serendipity of it all could land both in a Lakers’ uniform if the two can give each other a wink and a nod as to where they will sign. If the Lakers can woo the Spurs into a deal that satisfies them enough to part with Kawhi, that would be the first step towards creating another super team in the NBA. LeBron has been there and done that in Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joining him to win a few titles down in South Beach. Leonard would be the shiny new toy that could lure LeBron to LA and join Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and if the moon and stars align, perhaps even the Lakers’ leading scorer from last season, restricted free agent Julius Randle. Although, the Spurs may have to give up Ingram and Kuzma or Ball to San Antonio in any trade for Leonard.
Los Angeles may not be the only team pining for Leonard’s services but there are several issues for any interested party to consider. First and foremost are the injuries Leonard sustained and his tolerance for playing through pain. Secondly, it appears Leonard has “people” which is a flashing sign that might as well spell out D-I-V-A. We learned of this through Popovich’s quote in April when asked about Leonard’s availability for the playoffs.
“You’ll have to ask Kawhi and his group that question. So far, they say that he’s not ready to go. So we can’t do anything until that happens. Then, we would have to decide what’s going on from there. But that’s the first thing that has to happen.”
The operative words above are “his group” and “they” which both signal that Kawhi has people and those people are speaking for him and more than likely influencing him. When a head coach has to go through a player’s posse as opposed to the player himself, then there’s a serious disconnect. Any suitor trying to swing a deal with San Antonio must be ready to grapple with what appears to be Leonard’s increasingly fragile ego.
The drama will continue until San Antonio decides to either go all-in with their brooding superstar or bail out and begin the rebuild. Believe it or not, there are odds on where Kawhi Leonard will suit up for the first game of next season and you can bet on the destination!
Anytime we’re looking for odds on anything the first place we turn is to Sportsbook Review, otherwise known as SBR. And once again, SBR has what you’re looking for when it comes to the best online sportsbooks and the corresponding odds on anything from soccer to golf to football and even proposition wagers on where players like Kawhi will land in 2018-2019.
As of this writing, LA is the favorite at -135 followed by Boston +375, San Antonio +475, Philadelphia +500, Cleveland +1000, and the LA Clippers +1000. Unfortunately, Memphis isn’t being mentioned, but wouldn’t Leonard look perfect in a Grizzlies uniform? Chris Wallace, make it happen!