Stephen A. Smith reported last summer that the Spurs were willing to engage the New York Knicks on a Kawhi Leonard trade. It looks like he may have been on to something.
During the NBA offseason, mentioning the possibility of the San Antonio Spurs moving on from Kawhi Leonard would have gotten you laughed at. But now, it’s at least a conversation.
Last June, Stephen A. Smith was quoted discussing sources that told him that the Spurs were considering moving on from the former Finals MVP and they were willing to engage with the Knicks. The quote comes from Bobby Burack via The Big Lead.
“Melo and George was one trade, guess who the San Antonio Spurs called… the New York Knicks, and said they were willing to move Kawhi Leonard and clean house,” Smith said. “But then they stepped back from it and changed their minds. These are all the things I knew over the last couple days … but I got it confirmed just a few minutes ago, yet again!”
This was glossed over at the time, but amid new reporting from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Michael C. Wright, this doesn’t seem impossible. Wojnarowski and Wright are reporting that the relationship between Leonard and the Spurs organization has become frayed. Friction between star players happens all the time in the NBA, but it’s surprising when it happens with the Spurs, as San Antonio is usually considered the NBA’s model franchise. Yet this past offseason, LaMarcus Aldridge asked for a trade which head coach Gregg Popovich has spoken candidly about.
Although a Kawhi trade to the Knicks still seems highly unlikely, what would a deal for Kawhi look like? Even if the Spurs were looking to clean house, they wouldn’t be looking to acquire draft picks and tank. That doesn’t seem like the Spurs way.
One would have to imagine that the Spurs first choice in a deal would be Kristaps Porzingis. Who knows what else the Knicks would have had to include in a deal centering around KP.
Carmelo Anthony was a Knick for most of the summer, so maybe he would have been the centerpiece of a deal that included other assets. Would a package with Anthony, a couple of young players and a few draft picks have been enough?
At this point, it’s all speculation, but it’s interesting to think what a Knicks team led by Kawhi Leonard would look like in an alternate universe.