The NBA Free agency period is quickly approaching. This means that certain players are free from their contracts with their current team, and they can negotiate with other teams. Whether they are star players or role players, a player such as Rockets guard Chris Paul (who is a free agent) can potentially sign with another team.
This summer will likely be the “Summer of LeBron”. LeBron James can opt out of his current contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers and either re-sign with the Cavs or go elsewhere. As soon as the NBA Finals ended, the rumors began (if not sooner). Fans, Players, and Sports Analysts alike all started to speculate about LeBron’s free agency plans. There are rumors that he’s to the Lakers, they are rumors that he’s staying in Cleveland, or that he’ll sign with a young team such as the “Process” Philadelphia 76ers who have players such as Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. James’s decision could ultimately change the dynamic of the league. LeBron James will be the talk of this year’s off-season. Until he makes his decision, and even after he makes it, we’ll all be talking about his decision. But, there are other NBA players who could shake up the NBA with their free agency decisions or through trades. One of those players is Kawhi Leonard.
As I mentioned, LeBron James will be the “hot topic” of the off-season, but Kawhi Leonard’s future will be talked about as well. It will probably be the hottest topic only behind LeBron James.
Kawhi Leonard is a forward for the San Antonio Spurs. He is looked at as the Spurs’ franchise player, especially after Tim Duncan’s retirement. He was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 2011, but was traded to the Spurs during the draft. With his talent on both ends of the court and his quiet demeanor, Leonard is an ideal player for the Spurs. But, things started to go sour with Leonard and the Spurs.
Kawhi Leonard played 9 games for the Spurs this year. He missed the first 27 games of the season with a right quadriceps injury. He made his season debut in December, and played through January before suffering a partial tear in his left shoulder. However, he returned from the left shoulder injury. After his return, he was ruled out for an indefinite period of time due to the rehabilitation of his right quad injury. He was cleared to play by the Spurs’ medical staff, but he wanted a second opinion of his injury. This was one of the factors in the falling out between the Spurs and Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs also held a tense players only meeting asking Leonard to play. But, it was unsuccessful.
Now, the Spurs and Leonard are in an awkward place. Earlier this month, Kawhi Leonard asked for a trade. His rumored preference is to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
According to ESPN, the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers, and L.A Clippers have all reached out to the Spurs in hopes of a deal for Kawhi Leonard.
When I heard about his preference being the Lakers, I was a bit uncertain. Leonard is a California native, but he’s never played for a large market team such as the Lakers. How would he handle the spotlight of a larger market and the potential scrutiny if the Lakers don’t improve/win with Kawhi Leonard.
Another thing is what if the Lakers are unable to bring in help. LeBron James and Paul George are other players whose names are being mentioned with the Lakers. If the Lakers can acquire one of these two players to go alongside Leonard, the Lakers have a chance of winning. LeBron James has not played for a large market team either, but his personality is more outgoing and he is known around the league. LeBron James’s superstar is just as big if not bigger than any team. James could play for any team and people would still watch. He’ll be able to adjust to the large market of L.A and also take any scrutiny. If the Lakers could pair Kawhi Leonard with LeBron James, they’ll have something to build on.
Leonard could also go to the other teams mentioned in trade talks. He could go to the Clippers and still be in L.A. But, the expectations won’t be as high as they would be with the Lakers. It could work in his favor. The Cavs are one of the top teams of the East. They want to keep LeBron James by bringing in other players. Leonard would have a chance of getting to the Finals as the Eastern Conference team through the Cavaliers. The Celtics are another option for the Kawhi Leonard. The Celtics remind me of the Spurs. The way that they’re team is structured and their coach (Brad Stevens) could make Kawhi Leonard feel at home, but this time in the Eastern Conference. The 76ers are an option because of his history with Brett Brown. Brown was an assistant coach for the Spurs before he became head coach of the Sixers. Their history together could benefit both Kawhi Leonard and the Sixers. If Leonard wants to go to a young , up and coming team, the Celtics or Sixers are his best options.
Personally, I would like to see Kawhi Leonard remain with the Spurs. He’s won a championship with them and has been their go to guy for a few years. But, if the relationship between the Spurs and Leonard is beyond repair, it is best for both sides to part. Leonard does not become a free agent until 2020, so it’s best the Spurs trade him than to deal with it later. While I think the Lakers is the most likely scenario, the Celtics may be the best. Once the “LeBron James Summer” is settled, Leonard’s will be the next big thing. We’ll see how it pans out.