As the 2018 NBA Conference Finals are in progress, the San Antonio Spurs are currently preparing for an offseason of uncertainty. Considered the model franchise in all of sports under head coach Gregg Popovich, a reported disconnect with Kawhi Leonard has caused unexpected friction.
Leonard’s right quadriceps injury limited him to just nine games during the 2017-18 NBA season, and he has only spoken once to the media and has not provided any clarity about the situation. As a result, the superstar forward has been mentioned in recent trade rumors.
When free agency officially begins on July 1, Leonard will be eligible for a five-year, $219 million supermax contract extension. Faced with the possibility of having to trade their two-time All-Star, the Spurs have a plan in place, according to Tom Orsborn of San Antonio Express-News:
Still, the Spurs hope to meet with Leonard and his representatives soon in a bid to mend fences and pave the way for Leonard to come to terms on a five-year $219 million supermax contract that he will be eligible to receive starting July 1. If attempts to patch up the relationship fail, the Spurs will be forced to explore trading a player coach Gregg Popovich once labeled “the future face of the franchise.”
If San Antonio comes to the conclusion they have to trade Leonard before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2019, the Los Angeles Lakers have already been linked to him
While the Lakers have reportedly informed teams no player is considered untouchable, multiple reports suggest they can — and perhaps will — instead to wait to sign Leonard as a 2019 free agent.
Similar to the Paul George situation, there are risks associated with waiting to sign Leonard. While it is ideal to keep the young core intact and then add a player of Leonard’s caliber in free agency, the Spurs could trade him where his new team has at most one full season to persuade him to re-sign with them.