The Philadelphia 76ers are prepared to present the San Antonio Spurs with a trade proposal regarding Kawhi Leonard in the coming weeks, as the Sixers remain the most likely NBA team to acquire the disgruntled Leonard in a trade, given their status as a soon-to-be-elite NBA team and their boatload of assets (which will likely include a top 10 pick in this year’s loaded draft).
Leonard is said to want to go to large media market, and Philly certainly fits the bill given that it is the fourth largest media market in the United States behind New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. None of those cities currently have teams that even approach the TV attractiveness of the 76ers, and there’s a good case to be made that no team in the NBA will appear on National TV next year more than Philadelphia.
“We always talk about [players] going to large market teams: ‘Who’s going to LA? Who’s going to New York? What’s going on in Philly?,” ESPN analyst Jalen Rose said. “We never say, ‘Who’s going to San Antonio to play with Kawhi?’ And here’s why I think players have not done that: ‘The Spurs Way’ looks like opportunity dressed in overalls. It looks like work. People really don’t want that. Players talk about wanting to win and wanting to be a champion, but ultimately they want to do it on their own terms. And when you go to San Antonio guess who’s the CEO of the organization: Gregg Popovich. It’s going to be his way.”
The situation in San Antonio between Leonard and Popovich certainly seems irreconcilable at this point, opening the door for teams like the Sixers, Celtics (with their cache of assets) and Lakers (they’ll be looking to make the leap this offseason) to get involved. Boston, however, seems content bringing back the same roster it had this season – only now with a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. And San Antonio would be hesitant to trade Leonard in-conference, especially to a Lakers organization with which it has had a long-standing rivalry with.
Philly’s main competition in the East moving forward is the Celtics, and their rivals will be indirectly “adding” two All-Stars this offseason with Irving and Hayward coming back. The Sixers need to keep up, and the best and most realistic way to do so is making a play for the sharp-shooting Leonard – who would provide a perfect complement to Ben Simmons on the offensive end.
Philly could dangle their two first round picks this year (again, one a lottery pick and the other at No. 26), two potential first rounders next year (if Boston does not get the Lakers pick) as well as Dario Saric, Robert Covington and even Markelle Fultz.
San Antonio will obviously not be giving up the former NBA Finals MVP for nothing, and based on recent blockbusters – Philly would need to give up the farm. The Celtics sent two starters (Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder), this year’s Brooklyn pick and several ancillary pieces to Cleveland in order to land Kyrie Irving last summer.
Starters, picks, and the potential of Fultz would likely be enough for the Spurs to pull the trigger.