The San Antonio Spurs are in uncharted territory with a franchise player requesting a trade away from their organization. Kawhi Leonard has made it abundantly clear that he no longer wishes to play for the Spurs and that he would like to seek greener pastures elsewhere, preferably on the Los Angeles Lakers.
But Leonard does not fully control his destination and the Lakers may be a longshot. According to USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick, the Spurs have informed the rest of the league that they are only willing to trade Leonard to the Eastern Conference:
But in the days that followed, the Spurs wasted no time in sending this message all around the NBA: The only Western Conference team he might be playing for is theirs.
Fellow West teams have been told, in essence, to get lost – none moreso than the Lakers, according to ESPN. As it stands, the Spurs are determined to either fix the situation or trade Leonard to an Eastern Conference team. For teams other than the Lakers, the threat of losing Leonard in free agency next summer makes the prospect of offering meaningful assets a complicated, calculated risk.
It’s an interesting strategy for the Spurs. They clearly do not want to face Leonard in the playoffs and do not want to contribute to creating more challengers to the West with the Warriors and Rockets already head and shoulders above them. The Spurs have already refuted trade requests by the Clippers centered around their two lottery picks and Tobias Harris and reportedly refused to negotiate with the Lakers before any proposals were made.
However, it will limit the Spurs’ options. Leonard is reportedly telling teams he will only sign in Los Angeles in 2019 when he hits free agency. Any team looking to trade for the star forward will likely lowball San Antonio knowing that they risk acquiring Leonard for a one-year rental. The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers would appear to be the mot likely candidates to trade for Leonard. However, according to Amick, the Cavaliers have had talks with San Antonio hoping to use Leonard to convince LeBron James to stay in Cleveland. There is reportedly no traction on a potential deal.