Kawhi Leonard Trade Rumors: 76ers Interested in Landing Spurs Star

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2018

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2018, file photo, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) moves the ball up court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, in San Antonio. The absolute unwillingness to answer certain questions is part of the San Antonio Spurs' mystique. The Spurs just don't share much. So there is some unmistakable irony here that when it comes to the obviously fractured relationship between San Antonio and Kawhi Leonard, it's the Spurs who are the ones frustrated by the lack of answers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

The Philadelphia 76ers are expected to aggressively pursue a superstar to play alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons this offseason, and attempting to trade for the San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard is a possibility, according to Keith Pompey of Philly.com.

"Don’t be surprised if they also try to acquire San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard in a trade," Pompey wrote. "Sources have said the Sixers have expressed interest in the two-time all-star."

Pompey added that "Leonard has a great relationship with Sixers coach Brett Brown." Brown served as an assistant under Gregg Popovich before taking over as the head coach of the 76ers.

Pompey also noted the team could look to sign LeBron James or Paul George in free agency.

Leonard, 26, would certainly fit the Sixers stylistically. He's an elite defender who's always been a solid three-point shooter, hitting on 38.6 percent of his shots from beyond the arc in his career. For a Philadelphia team that plays stout defense, likes to push the pace in transition and wants to spread the floor and shoot a lot of threes, Leonard would slide right into the mix. 

His ability to create his offense would also be vital. Simmons' lack of a jump shot limited his ability to score one-on-one when teams took away paths to the lane, and the Sixers didn't have many players capable of creating their own offense, often resulting in Embiid post-ups late in the shot clock.

Rookie Markelle Fultz was supposed to help in that regard, as his ability to run the pick-and-roll would have given the team's offense a new dynamic, but shoulder issues and jump-shooting struggles of his own resulted in Fultz barely playing in the 2017-18 season. The Sixers will be hoping he takes a major leap forward in his sophomore campaign.

Regardless, Leonard checks basically every box for Philadelphia. His injury concerns from the past season will be seriously investigated by Philadelphia if any trade talks grow serious, given the organization has dealt with no shortage of injury concerns in recent years.

The price tag for Leonard probably will be steep as well. The Spurs may ask for a package including Fultz, Dario Saric, Robert Covington and a first-round pick. Would the Sixers be willing to cut ties with Fultz so quickly after using the top overall pick to select him or Saric after his continued growth over his first two seasons? 

And of course, it's questionable if San Antonio will even entertain offers for Leonard or whether the superstar will push for a deal. The Spurs can offer Leonard a five-year, $219 million super max contract extension this offseason, about $70 million more than a team could offer him in free agency in the 2019 offseason.

No matter what tensions may loom between Leonard and San Antonio, that's a lot of money to pass up if the Spurs offer it. But if the two sides can't repair the relationship, expect the Sixers to be a serious pursuer of Leonard. 

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