With Kawhi Leonard’s impending free agency looming, the Spurs have been working hard to sign their prized young forward to an extension. Unfortunately, negotiations between the two sides have stalled, as Leonard is reportedly resolute in his desire for a maximum contract.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski:
Spurs president and general manager R.C. Buford and agent Brian Elfus have had several discussions in recent weeks, but no progress has been made
Multiple league executives told Yahoo Sports he’ll command a max offer sheet on the market next summer. The Spurs would assuredly match a sheet and retain Leonard, but there remains the risk of Leonard signing a similar offer sheet to Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons.
Wojnarowski echoes what many around the league believe about Leonard: he’s a surefire, no-brainer max-contract guy. Players who win NBA Finals MVP at age 22 tend to earn those type of deals.
But it’s not like Leonard earned a max deal based on one strong playoff performance; his progress in his three NBA seasons shows that he has superstar potential.
Kawhi Leonard is a fantastic on-ball defender, and his length and athleticism make him an elite rebounder for his position. On offense, he’s already a strong three-point shooter, with a career average .376%, and he’s especially lethal from the corners. He’s the prototypical ‘3 and D’ player, and even that label sells him short.
Leonard is an improving ball-handler and slasher, and while his scoring numbers (12.8 PPG last year) won’t blow anybody away, he’s not a particularly high usage player in the Spurs’s offense, meaning there’s plenty of room for growth.
Kawhi Leonard may not be a Lebron or Durant level superstar, and he may not have the freakish athletic potential of a guy like Anthony Davis or Giannis Antetokounmpo, but it’s easy to see him blossoming into a 20 point/8 rebound/3 assist/2 steals type producer who plays elite defense and shoots at a high percentage.
Factor in his humble, hardworking, team-first personality, and he seems like the natural successor to Duncan, Parker and Ginobili as the Spurs’ next homegrown star.
Based on all this, it would seem that San Antonio signing Kawhi Leonard to a max deal would be an easy decision, but, the Spurs aren’t like most teams.
They make decisions based on long-term flexibility and don’t typically offer max deals. They’ve talked Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili into accepting discounting deals to preserve cap room, and they follow this up by drafting well and making smart free-agent signings.
It’s resulted in 5 titles in the last 15 years, and it’s made the Spurs the model NBA franchise.
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However, Kawhi Leonard could end up shaking things up if he remains insistent on a max deal.
The Spurs aren’t going to let Leonard reach free agency, so the fear isn’t that they’ll lose him, but, the Spurs realize that they need to get a deal done by Friday in order to help preserve as much flexibility as possible.
If not, San Antonio may be forced to match an offer sheet from another suitor, which means the terms and length of the deal may not be in their favor.
Kawhi Leonard will end up staying with the Spurs regardless, but it’s made this negotiation a lot more interesting than many anticipated.
What do you think about the Kawhi Leonard contract situation? Let us know in the comments!