02 July, 2018
Amidst all of the National Basketball Association rumors surrounding free agency, Kawhi Leonard getting traded remains as one story worth keeping an eye on. Should one of them work for both sides, and a trade be agreed upon, the Sixers could theoretically blindside the league by adding James in the aftermath. Essentially, the Clippers would have to relinquish much of the assets they had received from the Detroit Pistons in their trade of Blake Griffin. However that doesn't stop other teams trying to get their hands on Leonard.
Ben Maller thinks that if the Spurs were smart, they wouldn't trade them to the Lakers at all.
George will be an unrestricted free agent in July and while he admitted playing in his native state would be "attractive", he has also hinted he would like to re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder, claiming the team "checked all the boxes". If Leonard tells a team like the Sixers that there's no chance he would sign an extension with them next summer, there's little incentive to give up assets for the star forward.
Especially given ESPN's Ian Begley's report Sunday that "there are several people with Philadelphia who feel confident that Leonard would strongly consider re-signing there next summer if they traded for him", it makes sense for the Sixers to pursue Leonard aggressively. Point guard Shai Gilgeous Alexander, who was drafted by the Clippers in June, is one of the promising young players being rumored as part of the trade package for Kawhi Leonard. Though, the Lakers reportedly cooled in their pursuit leading up to free agency.
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But they're not the only team believing it has that extra incentive to deal for the Spurs star. By Friday, James will have to make a decision whether or not to enter free agency.
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George is in a similar situation as James. Whether that is true or San Antonio just want to use Philly for leverage is up for debate, but the Sixers are at least at the table. San Antonio would nearly certainly insist on getting players such as Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram plus draft picks in return.
Leonard's and the Spurs' relationship fractured this year while Leonard was out with a leg injury.
According to a separate ESPN report, James is unlikely to visit other teams or take an audience with suitors as he did in past free-agent circuits. But 2019-20 could turn out to be a real problem with Leonard and Irving having the option next summer to skip the previous year of their deals and enter the market.