#6: Kawhi Leonard
Nearly four years after he demanded a trade, most Spurs fans still haven't forgiven Kawhi Leonard. Having a superstar quit on the team tends to do that, but fortunately, the Spurs have a new one that they can build around. Leonard, on the other hand, has seen his career take a surprising turn.
Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to a championship in 2019 after being traded there by the Spurs, only for him to join the Los Angeles Clippers less than a year later and form a super team with Paul George. At the time, they were seen as the frontrunners in the West, but after failing to make the Western Conference Finals in their first three years, that is obviously no longer the case.
Repeated injuries to Leonard, including missing all of the 2021–22 season, have made it almost impossible for the Clippers to contend in the West, especially now with the emergence of the Denver Nuggets. With two years remaining on his contract, Leonard could look to play elsewhere to end his career, and perhaps he will consider returning to San Antonio. Fans probably shouldn't hold their breath, but there is a case to be made for why he might. For starters, the Spurs helped turn Leonard into a star, but he has become a pariah in San Antonio after seven seasons with the franchise.
That probably didn't matter much to him back in 2019, but if he strikes out on winning a championship in Los Angeles after maneuvering his way there, it might force him to reevaluate things. Returning to the Spurs would give him a chance to restore his legacy with the team and possibly win another championship, this time as an aging veteran supporting a young star.
That's the theory of the case, at least, but we've all been following the NBA long enough to know that it never works out that way. Carmelo Anthony didn't rejoin the Nuggets and help them win a championship after forcing his way off the team, and neither did a dozen other stars that demanded a trade.
Many of them likely never even entertained the thought, and the feeling was probably mutual among their old teams. Despite taking the high road, the Spurs should do the same as those teams, especially if he continues to collect DNPs over the next couple of seasons, since there is no telling what caliber of player he'll be at 33.