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San Antonio Spurs: 3 trade candidates for Kawhi Leonard

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 02: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs warms up before the game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 02, 2018 in New York City. 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. (Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 02: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs warms up before the game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 02, 2018 in New York City. 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. (Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images) /
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NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 02: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs warms up before the game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 02, 2018 in New York City. 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. (Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 02: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs warms up before the game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 02, 2018 in New York City. 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. (Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images) /

In light of recent reports that Kawhi Leonard wants to part ways with the San Antonio Spurs, the team will surely have some trade candidates to look at. Here are some possible destinations for Leonard this summer.

The looming threat of a Kawhi Leonard trade has nagged the San Antonio since January. While it may not be easy for fans to face, the relationship between San Antonio and their star has seemingly frayed. Now, after a season of turmoil and discontent, the two groups may look to part ways. Here are some potential trade destinations for Leonard this summer.

3. Sacramento Kings

Leonard has been linked to his home state of California in multiple trade rumors over the course of this season. While the Clippers and Lakers may have the most buzz surrounding them, the Sacramento Kings may have the most to offer San Antonio.

Another team to watch in the Kawhi sweepstakes: Sacramento. Kings have talked to teams about the No. 2 pick, per sources, and desperately want an established star.

— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixYS) June 15, 2018

All signs point toward the Phoenix Suns selecting center Deandre Ayton with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. This leaves EuroLeague champion Luka Doncic on the board for Sacramento at No. 2. It’s no surprise that San Antonio would be interested in a European prospect of Doncic’s caliber, as they’ve had tremendous success with international players in their 20-year playoff streak.

Doncic, a 6’8 playmaking swingman, snagged the EuroLeague MVP Trophy en route to a Real Madrid championship victory in May. In many ways, Doncic would be a perfect Spur. He’s an unselfish playmaker and can score from anywhere on the floor. Throughout his scouting process, he’s been remarked as a “Manu Ginobili-esque” player who provides a dynamic spark to any team he joins.

To jumpstart the franchise with a 19-year old phenom would certainly bring hope for the Spurs. After suffering through a season in which their star player played just nine games, San Antonio still managed the seventh seed in the West on the back of power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. The making of a playoff contender are still there, they’ll just need some help.

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Although their record may not show it, Sacramento has many pieces that could interest R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich. In his second season for the Kings, sharpshooter Buddy Hield solidified himself as a premier three-point shooter. His decision-making and toughness shined for the Kings despite competition for minutes at his position. Hield shot a spectacular 43.1 percent from behind the arc on 5.1 attempts per game toward his 13.5 points per contest.

Bigmen Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere have also shown promise in their young careers despite their circumstances. The expiring contracts of Iman Shumpert, Kosta Koufos and Garrett Temple could be in play as well, creating cap space for Buford and Pop to draw free agents in the loaded free agency class of 2019.

While many fans may scratch their heads at the idea of a trade with Sacramento, it could make a great deal of sense for all parties.

Next: Boston Celtics

2. Boston Celtics

After a season plagued by injuries and set for failure, the Boston Celtics put together a terrific postseason run headlined by their young core. With the Eastern Conference up for grabs and a plentiful set of assets, Danny Ainge and Buford will likely look to make a deal.

Acquiring rookie phenom Jayson Tatum from Boston won’t be easy, but he’ll likely be at the top of Buford’s list. Tatum led the Celtics in scoring during the postseason with 18.5 points per game on 47.1 percent shooting. His well-rounded offensive game and unselfishness would make him a fantastic Spur.

His counterpart on the wing, Jaylen Brown, also took strides in his second season as a Boston Celtic. The 6’7” swingman asserted himself as an elite three-and-d player with a versatile skill set and strong defensive foundation. In many ways, Brown is reminiscent of a young Leonard. His incredible mind and athleticism are tools that would be implemented beautifully into a Popovich-run system.

So here are Jaylen Brown's second year stats next to Kawhi's second year stats. If Boston ends up being the best possible trade destination, Pop and the crew could literally groom Brown into Kawhi 2.0. #FoodForThought #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/4oYv2nksPg

— Dylan Hunter Carter (@DylanHCarter) June 15, 2018

Other players that come to mind are Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford. Whether Ainge wants to split the crew up to add Leonard is yet to be seen, but it’s been reported that the Celtics inquired about a Leonard trade earlier in the season, to which the Spurs declined.

They may be swayed by the slew of picks that Boston has to choose from next season, including potential 2019 picks from Sacramento, Memphis and the Clippers, all of which have protections looming over them.

Whether they’d prefer to rebuild or continue competing next season, San Antonio has a ton of options to choose from in a trade with Boston. With the amount of assets on the table, it wouldn’t be outlandish to suggest that the two parties could find a deal they’d both agree on.

Next: Miami Heat

PHILADELPHIA, PA – APRIL 24: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game Five of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA – APRIL 24: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game Five of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

1. Miami Heat

Miami seems like a fair trade destination for all parties involved. Popovich keeps Kawhi out of the Western Conference while sending him to a big market and acquiring assets in return. Since the departure of LeBron James from Miami in the summer of 2014, the Heat have found themselves in basketball limbo.

They’ve been in and out of the playoffs without any true hope of contention for the past four seasons and have pursued big name free agents in each of the last three summers. This could be the big break they’ve waited for.

Forward Justise Winslow has shown flashes of great potential in his three seasons despite an unsteady role under coach Erik Spoelstra. His lengthy frame and muscular body make him a pesky on-ball defender with major potential in a switch-based defensive scheme. Winslow is a bit rough around the edges offensively, but remains an explosive athlete. He’s worked extremely hard to develop as an outside threat, shooting a career-high 38 percent from behind the arc this season.

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Down low, bigman Bam Adebayo showed his explosiveness and high IQ as a two-way player in his rookie season. His ability to play above the rim and protect the paint could be paired beautifully with Aldridge on the block. At 6’10 with a strong build and major hops, the 20-year old could be a fun project for San Antonio.

In addition to the young core they’ve established, plug-and-go role players such as All-Star Goran Dragic, positionless anomaly Josh Richardson and big man Hassan Whiteside could all be in play as well. Miami also owns its own picks in both of the next two drafts, which could also make for some nice trade chips.

It’d be poetic for San Antonio to ship Kawhi to South Beach. Part of Leonard’s allure is his Hall of Fame level resume, headlined by the Finals MVP that he earned in the 2014 victory over Miami. It won’t be easy for San Antonio to say goodbye to their star player. The “what if’s” have hung over the Alamo City since his injury in the 2017 Western Conference Finals.

Next: Kawhi Leonard trade scenarios before the draft

It may not seem like it at first glance, but the divorce between Leonard and the Spurs could turn out for the better, as long as the team sticks to its instincts and makes smart decisions from here on out.

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