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NBA Trade Rumors: Latest on Kawhi Leonard, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 9, 2018

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JANUARY 13:  Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs handles the ball against the Denver Nuggets on January 13, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
Mark Sobhani/Getty Images

The 2018 version of NBA free agency has made its biggest imprint with All-Star movement.

This offseason's trade market may eventually do the same.

The latest round of trade chatter centers on three players with multiple All-Star selections on their resume.

                   

Spurs "Extremely Stubborn" in Kawhi Talks?

SSAN ANTONIO, TX - MAY 6: Gregg Popovich coaches Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs on May 6, 2016 at the AT&T Center in S
Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

Full-strength Kawhi Leonard is on a short list of the Association's best building blocks.

He's the best perimeter defender since Scottie Pippen. Offensively, Leonard is a No. 1 scoring option (25.5 points per game in 2016-17), perimeter marksman (career 38.6 percent from three) and willing passer (3.8 assists per 36 minutes the past two seasons).

The San Antonio Spurs understandably don't want to give him up. If they're forced to do so, they reportedly want the world in return, per Yahoo Sports' Jordan Schultz:

Jordan Schultz @Schultz_Report

The #Spurs remain open for business — continuing to speak w/other teams in regard to trading Kawhi Leonard, per league sources. But they have very high demands for the return haul and are not in any rush to move him if their asking price - regardless of team - is not met.

This sounds like a stalemate-in-the-making, assuming it hasn't already reached that point.

If the Spurs make this move, they're losing a top-five talent. Asking for anything less than a king's ransom would be bad business.

But that doesn't mean other clubs have to pay it.

Assuming Leonard, an L.A. native, wants to head home, the Lakers and Clippers won't want to give away too much if they feel they can sign him outright next summer. Other clubs might shy away from paying top dollar given his recent medical woes and future uncertainty.

It could be a while before anyone blinks.

                  

Carmelo Leaving OKC?

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Year one for Carmelo Anthony and the Oklahoma City Thunder disappointed from all angles.

His numbers plummeted to career lows nearly across the board, including 16.2 points on 40.4 percent shooting, 1.3 assists and a well-below-average 12.7 player efficiency rating. The Thunder, meanwhile, only increased their win total by one and still couldn't escape the first round, despite adding both Anthony and Paul George.

That would be reason enough to explore cutting ties with Anthony. But the decision becomes a no-brainer when factoring in the colossal financial relief a divorce could bring.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Royce Young explained:

"The franchise's front office is working through scenarios that will culminate in the inevitable this summer: an ending to the brief Carmelo Anthony partnership, which could deliver the Thunder over $100 million in cost savings.

"The massive financial implications of Anthony opting into his $27.9 million contract for the 2018-19 season—coupled with a mutual understanding that his scaled-back role with the Thunder isn't what he had signed up for—have dictated that the two sides will part ways sometime this summer."

League sources told the ESPN scribes Anthony's exit could happen "through a trade, the NBA's stretch provision or a combined buyout and stretch." If he gets to the open market, the Lakers, Houston Rockets and Miami Heat are among the clubs expected to have interest.

Anthony has Banana Boat buddies on both the Lakers (LeBron James) and Rockets (Chris Paul). The Heat might offer Anthony the most prominent role, as their recent rosters have lacked a dynamic wing scorer.

                  

Cavs Keeping Kevin Love?

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The last time LeBron took his talents elsewhere, the Cleveland Cavaliers were decimated. They lost nearly 70 percent of their contests over that four-season stretch and didn't sniff the playoffs until he returned.

But those memories aren't motivating the franchise to have a fire sale in the near future. As general manager Koby Altman told reporters at summer league, "I don't necessarily want to go backwards," per Cleveland.com's Joe Vardon.

It remains to be seen if that's a permanent stance, though.

One executive told The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto the Cavs will open the season with Kevin Love "unless they get blown away by an offer." And if Love sticks around that long, that doesn't guarantee him a longterm future in Northeast Ohio.

"I think he'll be more in demand during the season by the trading deadline," the executive said, per Pluto. "Kevin could have a very good year for the Cavs being the focal point of the offense. He is a talented player."

The last time Love handled the lead role on offense, he supplied the 2013-14 Minnesota Timberwolves with 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists on a nightly basis. Of course, he wasn't 30 years old then, like he'll be come September. And his monster numbers in Minnesota never yielded any playoff berths.

That said, if he can produce like an offensive star, it will be interesting to see where the rest of the league pegs his trade value.

                   

Statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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