As we wait for the 2018 NBA free-agency madness to begin, the trade rumor mill continues to keep fans on a rollercoaster ride concerning San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard, the biggest name in trade talks, seems likely to suit up for a new team in the upcoming season. Which Eastern Conference club put together a package involving an ascending player and established shooter to land the star forward?
Did the 2018 NBA draft affect the Cleveland Cavaliers' trade interests? Where do they stand on a move for Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker?
Are the Toronto Raptors eyeing changes to the starting five under new head coach Nick Nurse?
Philadelphia 76ers Discuss Trade Package for Kawhi Leonard
New York Times reporter Marc Stein said the relationship between the Spurs and Leonard is irreparable.
"Realizing that hopes of repairing its damaged relationship with Leonard are fading by the day, San Antonio is ready to move on from Leonard provided that a palatable trade offer materializes this off-season, according to the people, who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly."
It's a 180-degree turn from general manager R.C. Buford's message promoting the push for peace and harmony after the draft. Now, the trade floodgates open as teams prepare to dangle assets in order to land the two-time Defensive Player of the Year who averaged 25.5 points just a season ago. Elite two-way players don't come along often. It's time for front offices to push their proverbial chips to the center of the table.
After the Philadelphia 76ers draft, head coach Brett Brown said the team is "star hunting or star developing" in relation to the trade that netted Zhaire Smith and the Miami Heat's 2021 pick in exchange for Mikal Bridges.
The Sixers discussed some assets that may generate interest in San Antonio, per SI.com writer Jake Fischer:
"Philadelphia's internal discussions have focused on potential trade packages offering various young players and future draft selections. One team source says preliminary discussions with San Antonio revealed the Spurs have strong interest in a package involving burgeoning forwards Dario Saric and Robert Covington as well as a future first-round pick."
Covington signed a four-year, $62 million extension in November. He averaged 12.6 points per game and led the team in three-pointers with 203 through the 2017-18 season. Saric served as the starting power forward who was able to stretch the floor and knock down 157 triples. The second-year pro averaged 14.6 points per contest through 78 appearances.
Together, the forwards would significantly help the Spurs compete in a three-ball league. San Antonio ranked 28th in the category in the previous campaign. Clearly, Leonard's arrival would raise expectations in Philadelphia after a 4-1 loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinal.
Cleveland Cavaliers "Door has Closed" on Kemba Walker Deal
Forward LeBron James opted out of his $35.6 million player option, per Yahoo Sports reporter Shams Charania, but there's still a chance the Cavaliers sign him to a more lucrative long-term deal. In the meantime, the front office must move quickly with their offseason plan independent of the 33-year-old's intentions.
According to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, the Cavaliers have gone cold on pursuing Walker.
Cleveland selected guard Collin Sexton at No. 8 overall in this year's draft. As a result, Windhorst's news shouldn't come as a surprise.
Prior to the draft, Cleveland.com's Joe Vardon reported the team inquired about Leonard and league sources also placed Walker's name in the discussion: "Cleveland has in fact inquired about Kawhi Leonard's availability from the Spurs, among others, and league sources suggested Charlotte's Kemba Walker could be in play for the Cavs."
There's no doubt James' decision will affect the Cavaliers long-term plan. If he goes elsewhere, the front office may decide to blow up the roster and start from scratch. The Akron's native's return would likely prompt minor-to-moderate tweaks after a 4-0 series loss to the Golden State Warriors in the 2017-18 NBA Finals.
Toronto Raptors Interested in Moving Serge Ibaka?
After winning a franchise-high 59 regular-season games and a suffering disappointing semifinal exit, the Raptors fired Dwane Casey, the eventual Coach of the Year. Front office executives may consider starting-lineup changes to push the club over the hump.
According to TSN reporter Josh Lewenberg, the Raptors wouldn't think twice about sending forward Serge Ibaka elsewhere:
"If it simply came down to preference, Toronto would gladly move on from Ibaka following his inconsistent 2017-18 season and disappointing playoff performance. However, finding a trade partner willing to absorb the $44.9 million he's owed over the next two seasons would almost certainly require them to take back a bad contract, or cost them additional assets."
In Lewenberg's report, he stated the team views Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas as centers, which makes one of the two expendable.
Nonetheless, Toronto Sun reporter Ryan Wolstat believes the team "will explore all options," which indicates the front office would consider moves involving it's All-Star backcourt as well. An enticing deal may set off a blockbuster trade that dismantles the Raptors' roster nucleus.
Contract details courtesy of Spotrac.com.