I believe that San Antonio Spurs fans are a fairly level-headed bunch but if you want to poke the hornet’s nest, mention Kawhi Leonard around a few Spurs die-hards. Even though Leonard has been gone for years, the feelings of frustration and betrayal that his exodus left with Spurs fans are still very much there.
We don’t need to rehash the breakup between the Spurs and Leonard in too great of detail. The SparkNotes version: Leonard forced his way out of San Antonio and in return, the Spurs got DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a draft pick that would eventually become Keldon Johnson from the Toronto Raptors.
Given how well all of those three have played for San Antonio I think it’s safe to say that the Spurs won that deal. DeRozan is playing some of the most efficient and well-rounded basketball of his career, Poeltl is making a name for himself as the most underrated defensive big man in the league, and Keldon tearing through defense across the league while making his way to the Rising Stars game.
But news has recently come out that Leonard is preparing to reunite with former head coach Gregg Popovich at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Could this be paving the way for a potentially long-term reunion between Leonard, Popovich, and the Spurs?
San Antonio Spurs should make a run at Kawhi Leonard this summer
Leonard could be in for an incredibly busy summer. Between fighting in the playoffs, potentially contending for an NBA title, playing in the Olympics, and deciding where to sign his next contract it’s going to be a whirlwind.
Kawhi and the Clippers came up short last year in embarrassing fashion. They bungled a 3-1 series lead and several impressive in-game leads to the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs and the stories that came out after about infighting and preferential treatments didn’t do them any favors either.
The moves they made this summer to prepare for another playoff run were a mixed bag. Adding Nicolas Batum and Serge Ibaka was smart. Signing Luke Kennard to a 4-year, $64 million dollar extension only to see him average just over seven points a game, not so much.
If the Clippers come up short again, especially if they’re plagued by the same issues that bothered them last year, why wouldn’t Leonard consider signing elsewhere? After mortgaging their draft assets for the foreseeable future it’s not like the Clippers have a clear path to improvement.
They’re going to have to rely on chasing veterans to help them improve and, as we’ve seen from Blake Griffin, they’re no longer the clubhouse leader to sign the next ring-hungry veteran willing to take a pay cut to make it happen. If only there was an up-and-coming team that Leonard was already familiar with that also had the cap space to sign him.
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The San Antonio Spurs fit that bill perfectly. Kawhi’s already got relationships with some of the coaches and players – relationships that might take some repairing but relationships nonetheless- and San Antonio should have more than enough cap space to sign him if he’s interested.
The only real hurdle would be the fit. Adding Kawhi to a mix of wings that already includes Keldon Johnson and DeMar DeRozan could push one of the two to the bench while also further building up a log-jam of players that could stall the development of Luka Samanic and Devin Vassell. But in the grand scheme of things, I think it would still be worth it.
I’m as high on the current group of Spurs as anyone but the one thing this team is lacking is a top-ten player who can take them over the top. Regardless of how you feel about how Leonard left San Antonio, we should all be able to agree that he fits that description. If the Spurs want to win a title any time soon they need a guy like Leonard on their team.
Finally, and this might be the biggest selling point in this hypothetical discussion for me, how sweet would it be to see this thing come full circle? Leonard forced his way out of San Antonio but the Spurs are debatably better off because of it. Then he forced the Clippers to give up their future to bring in Paul George so they could fight for a title. Can you imagine if he jumped ship again to head back to the team that drafted him? It’d be a story for the ages, and as someone who loves drama and pageviews, I’m very much here for it.
Is Kawhi Leonard likely to join the San Antonio Spurs this summer? Frankly, no. He forced his way out of San Antonio and Toronto because he wanted to play in his hometown of Los Angeles. But that doesn’t mean that the Spurs shouldn’t ask for a meeting this summer to bring this thing all the way back around. If nothing else it would be an excellent chapter in the story of Kawhi and the San Antonio Spurs.