Kawhi Leonard Trade Scenarios for the Lakers

With rumors of Kawhi Leonard wanting to come to the Lakers, here are some fun scenarios to consider.

Before we dive into these hypothetical trades, let's run through the major updates on the Kawhi Leonard situation from very reliable reporters:

To sum it up, here is what we know:

  • Kawhi wants out of San Antonio and wants to be in Los Angeles, preferably with the Lakers.

  • San Antonio wants to mend the relationship before trying to trade him.

  • RC Buford and Gregg Popovich are in no rush to trade Kawhi.

  • The Spurs do not want to trade him west, especially to the Lakers. This is either:

    • absolutely true and the Spurs are being petty, or

    • a power move to have west teams, particularly the Lakers, pony up more assets in potential trade talks later

  • The Lakers and Spurs have had no trade talks, yet. Again, this could possibly be a power move, or the Spurs acting petty.

  • Teams not named the Lakers might be tentative and conservative in trade talks unless Kawhi assures them he would re-sign there next offseason.

  • It is highly unlikely that Lonzo Ball is dealt to San Antonio.

  • Whether Kawhi being traded, particularly to LA, is likely or not is still up in the air. It is a long offseason and a lot can happen in the ensuing months.

One last nugget: if you expect the Spurs to get equal value in return for a top-5 player in the league, you are probably fooling yourself. Without further ado, let's sink our teeth into juicy scenarios that the Lakers can pull off to acquire the Spurs' superstar.

3 for 1

Lakers get: Kawhi Leonard

Spurs get: Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Moritz Wagner

This would probably only come to fruition as a last resort for San Antonio. The Spurs will be about $11M under the cap next season. If the Lakers sign-and-trade Julius Randle at about $14M per year to combine with Brandon Ingram's $5.75M and Moritz Wagner's potential $1.7M for next season, the Spurs would take in roughly equal salary in return for Kawhi Leonard's $20.1M. Randle could potentially get a little more than that $14M per year depending on what the Spurs want.

Deng and Picks

Lakers get: Kawhi Leonard

Spurs get: Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Luol Deng, Moritz Wagner, 2020 First Round Pick, 2019 2nd Round Pick

San Antonio does this if they are going for a full rebuild. This means that they would probably trade LaMarcus Aldridge in a separate deal. Taking on Luol Deng to get young pieces would be worth it if they are going through that transition. He only has two years left on his deal, so next offseason his contract will be even more tradable because he will be heading into his final year.

Lakers Empty the Bank

Lakers get: Kawhi Leonard

Spurs get: Dennis Schroder, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Dallas 2019 Top-5 Protected First Round Pick

Hawks get: Lonzo Ball, Luol Deng

I can already hear fellow Laker fans screaming, "Why are you trading our future?!!" If the Lakers pull off this deal, the only players under contract for guaranteed money next season would be Kawhi Leonard, Josh Hart, Moritz Wagner, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, and Isaac Bonga. LA would be about $87M under the salary cap. Add in LeBron James ($35.7M) and Paul George ($30.3M) and now the Lakers are roughly $21M under the cap. If the Lakers re-sign Julius Randle at $25M next year using the bird rights exception, the Lakers could still use about $19M in cap space to fill out the rest of the roster. Here would be the Lakers' projected starting five:

LeBron James (yes, he can play point guard), Josh Hart, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Julius Randle

While I would try to move Deng for future picks rather than current players, this is still a worthy deal for the Lakers. They would still have a super team. Josh Hart has been exceptional as a shooter (39% from 3) and a defender. The Lakers could possibly bring back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as a starter and Brook Lopez to come off the bench. That's a championship contending team.

As for the Spurs, they acquire some young, quality pieces that can help them rebuild. With Dallas drafting Luka Doncic and possibly acquiring some good free agents, that pick will probably not be in the top 5, but still in the lottery.

The Hawks get Lonzo Ball to pair with other youngsters in Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, John Collins, Taurean Prince, and Omari Spellman. That is a rich core to build with going forward.

Kawhi to LA; LA to DC

Lakers get: Kawhi Leonard

Spurs get: Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, Wizards' 2019 First Round Pick, Lakers' 2020 First Round Pick

Wizards get: LaMarcus Aldridge, Danny Green

The Spurs face a full-fledged rebuild in this scenario. Otto Porter is a very solid starter and is due about $53M over the next two seasons before having a player option to opt out of what would be about $28.5M in his final season. He and the Lakers' young duo would be a solid trio for a young core. Morris, a solid starter, only has one year and $8.6M left on his deal. San Antonio is much worse in 2019, so their first round pick next year is much higher.

Aldridge and Green would make Washington even better. The Lakers would have to trade Deng in a separate deal if they plan on adding two max free agents, or one max free agent and Julius Randle in a re-sign.

Spurs Form a Big 3

Lakers get: Kawhi Leonard

Spurs get: Kevin Love, Kemba Walker

Hornets get: Brandon Ingram, Luol Deng, Moritz Wagner

Cavaliers get: Dejounte Murray, Pau Gasol, Kyle Kuzma, Jeremy Lamb, Lakers 2020 First Round Pick

While Kevin Love and Kemba Walker are arguably not top-20 players in the league, they are still lower tier all-stars. By choosing not to blow it up, the Spurs would be very competitive with a big 3 of Walker, Love, and Aldridge.

The Hornets will be hard pressed to find equal value in a deal for Kemba considering he only has one year left on his deal. Getting Ingram and Wagner would be decent compensation, even if it means swallowing Deng's contract for a couple years. The Hornets won't be competitive anyways, so they need to take as many young players as possible. Also worth noting, Mitch Kupchak, Charlotte's president of basketball operations, drafted Brandon Ingram when he was the Lakers' general manager.

The Cavaliers get a pair of two really good young players in Murray and Kuzma. They obviously do this knowing LeBron James is leaving. This will make them much worse and have a much higher 2019 first round pick. Murray, Kuzma, and Collin Sexton is a decent young trio to work with. Gasol's contract is $16M per year over the next two seasons, but only $6.7M is guaranteed in the last year.

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