5 Best Trade Offers Cavs Can Make for Kawhi Leonard
The Cleveland Cavaliers need some help. Kawhi Leonard would qualify as such.
The 26-year-old wants out of San Antonio over the organization's handling of a troublesome quad injury that kept him out of most of the season, according to ESPN's Chris Haynes.
Trading for Leonard would be the ultimate recruitment pitch for LeBron James to stay in Cleveland, giving him one of the NBA's best players on both sides of the ball.
Doing so will not be easy, of course. There's still a chance Leonard and the Spurs can make things work and he stays put. If not, there are 29 teams that should be putting together trade packages as we speak.
The Cavs don't have a lot of young players, existing stars or draft picks to offer, so they'll have to get creative with their proposals. Some will undoubtedly limit other potential moves or cost future draft picks that could turn out to be extremely valuable.
If Leonard is available, the Cavaliers have to at least try to pair him with James.
No. 5: Getting Warmed Up
Spurs Receive: F/C Kevin Love, G Kyle Korver, F Cedi Osman
Cavs Receive: F Kawhi Leonard, F/C Pau Gasol
No, this isn't the best offer the Cavaliers can present, but it's a good starting point to gauge what exactly San Antonio wants in return.
If the Spurs want to remain competitive, they'll likely ask for Love back in any deal involving the Cavaliers.
Love is easily Cleveland's best player outside of LeBron James and would give San Antonio's frontcourt a ton of offensive potential alongside LaMarcus Aldridge. The two could mix and match who they defend, with Aldridge capable of playing rim-protector on defense.
From there, the Cavs are going to have to eat some salary, either in the form of Gasol or Patty Mills. Gasol is owed $16 million this upcoming season with $6.7 million of his $16 million guaranteed in 2019-2020, when he'll be just shy of 40.
The Spurs could certainly use Korver, who was a 43.6 percent three-point shooter last season and is a tremendous teammate and locker room presence. Osman gives them a rotation wing who plays with a nonstop motor and should develop a reliable outside shot.
San Antonio would still ask for more, bringing up the Cavaliers' first counter.
No. 4: Hill (and More) for Leonard, Part 2
Spurs Receive: No. 8 overall pick, F/C Kevin Love, PG George Hill, G/F Rodney Hood, F Cedi Osman
Cavs Receive: F Kawhi Leonard, F/C Paul Gasol, PG Patty Mills
Could Hill and Leonard be traded for each other yet again?
On draft night in 2011, after selecting him 15th overall, the Indiana Pacers traded Leonard's draft rights to San Antonio for Hill.
Clearly, Hill isn't good enough to be the centerpiece in any major trade, but he was Cleveland's best player behind LeBron James and Love for the second half of the season. Hill and Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich have remained close, dating back to Hill's three years in San Antonio from 2008-2011. The pair even met for dinner in Cleveland the night before the Spurs and Cavs played on Feb. 25.
Hill would be an upgrade over Mills for San Antonio, and the Spurs would still get Love as their centerpiece.
Hood's age (25), size (6'8") and scoring prowess (14.9 points per game between the Utah Jazz and Cavaliers) make him an intriguing piece despite his lack of playing time in Cleveland's playoff run. A restricted free agent, the Spurs would have to agree to a new contract with Hood and acquire him via sign-and-trade. If any team can tap into his potential and maximize Hood's production, it's San Antonio.
Cleveland takes back the contracts of Gasol and Mills to make the money work and hopes Leonard doesn't leave after one season.
No. 3: Spurs Go Rebuild with Help of Grizzlies
Spurs Receive: No. 4 overall pick, No. 8 overall pick, PG George Hill, F Cedi Osman, C Ante Zizic
Cavs Receive: F Kawhi Leonard, F Chandler Parsons, G Patty Mills
Grizzlies Receive: F/C Kevin Love
"The Grizzlies continue to send signals that they might be willing to trade out of the draft for an established player who will allow them to compete next season with a healthy roster...The franchise believes it can return to the playoffs during the 2018-19 season. Memphis would seek to hand over the fourth pick for a young, established all-star level player."
Love is still (barely) in his 20's. That's young, right?
If Cleveland can flip Love for the fourth overall pick, that's some serious ammunition to put together for Leonard, especially if the Spurs opt for a rebuild.
The Cavs would have to eat Parsons' terrible deal (two years, $49.2 million) and likely have to throw in some sweeteners along with Hill for salary purposes.
If San Antonio wants to tear things down, it gets two early lottery picks, two second-year players with upside and Hill's expiring $19 million deal.
No. 2: Spurs Load Up
Spurs Receive: PG Kemba Walker, F/C Kevin Love
Cavs Receive: F Kawhi Leonard, F Marvin Williams, PG Patty Mills
Hornets Receive: No. 8 overall pick, PG George Hill, F Cedi Osman
Gregg Popovich guided a mostly Leonard-less Spurs team to 47 wins and a spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Now, add two 2017-18 All-Stars and see what he can do.
If San Antonio doesn't have any interest in a rebuild, it'll seek as much talent back as possible. Love is a nice start, but a 2017-18 season 22.1 point-per-game scorer in Walker would be even better.
For Charlotte to part with Walker, it'll need the Cavs' lottery pick and one of their many awful contracts removed as well. With Love gone, Cleveland happily accepts Williams after his 41.3 percent three-point shooting last season as a 6'9" big. The Hornets will clear Hill's contract after this season, giving him just enough time to groom Trae Young, Collin Sexton or whoever they choose to replace Walker.
The Cavs give up their best trade asset, second- and third-best players and most talented prospect for Leonard, Williams and Mills.
No. 1: Sacrifice the Future
Spurs Receive: No. 8 overall pick, 2021 unprotected 1st-round pick, F/C Kevin Love
Cavs Receive: F Kawhi Leonard
This would be a major gamble for Cleveland.
Parting with any future unprotected picks while not knowing LeBron James' next decision is scary, especially after watching the Brooklyn Nets miss out on multiple top-10 picks following their now infamous 2013 trade.
Still, shouldn't this team be going all-in now with James?
"San Antonio's going to want a ton," one Western Conference scout previously told B/R. "You'd probably have to include a future first unprotected and San Antonio's banking on LeBron leaving and the Cavs turning to s--t. That turns into a Brooklyn scenario and that unprotected Cleveland pick becomes gold. That's really risky for [GM Koby Altman] to do."
The Spurs could plug in Love and whatever player they select at No. 8, all while using the Cavs' 2021 first as trade bait or a future piece to rebuild their own franchise.
There's a chance that James (then 36) and Leonard (then 29) could both still be with the Cavaliers in three years and playing at a high level, thus severely hurting the value of that future first. If not, Cleveland could be a bottom-feeding team with no draft pick to show for it.