A number of news sources are reporting that Spurs two-time All-Star and former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, 26, wants out of San Antonio and the Greg Popovich doghouse.
Leonard has the Lakers at the top of the list of teams he wants to be traded to. Leonard is a Los Angeles native, but there’s an almost zero percent chance that Popovich moves the team’s best player to a conference rival (think back to the Shaq/Kobe Lakers of the early 2000’s – not the current Lonzo Ball diss record/ Kyle Kuzma Lakers).
With that in mind I give you the Atlanta Hawks and a perfect trade partner with the Spurs.
Here’s how the Hawks should get in the Kawhi Leonard trade talks and how they can win themselves a superstar, even if it’s it just for the remainder of his contract (nearly $42 million over next two seasons).
1-The Hawks need a superstar. Leonard is a superstar, and then some.
If you’re looking for a headline grabber, late night party guy, then Leonard is not your guy. If you want a top-15 player in the league, a top on-ball defender and 20-plus point per game scorer then he’s the guy.
Leonard averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and almost two steals per game during his most recent healthy season two years ago. (He only played nine games last season.) He would instantly become the most important Hawks player since Dominique Wilkins. Instantly.
2-Leonard has two years remaining on his contract and that’s easily worth a couple of first round picks.
Leonard is owed almost $42 million over the next two seasons before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the 2020-21 season. The Spurs are going to want a decent amount of compensation for one of the best 7-8 forwards in the league, but Leonard’s recent demands put them in a tough spot: Teams know Leonard wants out and will not put themselves out for the Spurs at this point.
The Hawks can offer their lottery pick, one of their two other first round picks, preferably the 30th pick, and San Marcos, Texas native Taurean Prince (San Marcos is a little less than 50 miles down I-35 from San Antonio) in a package deal that will give the Spurs a player that most likely wants to play in San Antonio, plays small forward and comes much cheaper than Leonard. Prince is owed just over $11 million over the next three years.
3-With tons of salary cap space, now’s the time for the Hawks to swing for the fences.
Question: What says ‘Come to our newly renovated arena and see the new-look Atlanta Hawks’ like trading for one of the league’s best players? Answer: Nothing.
Leonard would attract at minimum another couple thousand fans for a team that is well supported already and if nothing else – for two seasons at least – will give Atlanta a starting lineup of Leonard, Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, John Collins and Dewayne Dedmon. That’s an Eastern Conference playoff team at worst. At best, possibly a second round playoff out but a winning team in a fancy semi-new building. What’s wrong with that? A lottery pick, any lottery pick in the 2018 draft, will not be able to do what Leonard can do for the Hawks.
The time is now for GM Travis Schlenk and first year head coach Lloyd Pierce to strike while the iron is hot.