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The Toronto Raptors could be the team in the best position to acquire San Antonio Spurs star forward Kawhi Leonard, according to ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst.
The Spurs have reportedly held talks with the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers and Raptors.
As expected, San Antonio is in no rush to trade Leonard and the organization wants a grand offer in return for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year.
“I think Toronto is in the driver’s seat for Kawhi because I think the Lakers have given up,” Windhorst said on The Lowe Post. “The Sixers have given up. And with the Nets, Bulls and Hawks spending their cap space, it makes it harder to assemble a multi-team trade. I think the Raptors are in the driver’s seat.”
Leonard reportedly prefers to play for one of the teams in Los Angeles. There have, however, been conflicting reports as of late, as some reports indicate Leonard is fixated on joining the Lakers, while other outlets are reporting he favors the Clippers now that LeBron James is on the Lakers.
The Lakers have spoken to the Spurs on multiple occasions, but are unwilling to part ways with Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, two players San Antonio want in return for Leonard.
L.A. is operating under the impression that if they can’t acquire Leonard this summer, he will just sign with them when he becomes a free agent in 2019. But the Lakers should be careful with that logic, as Paul George was once thought to be a lock to be a Laker and now he’s in Oklahoma City for the long-haul after re-signing with the Thunder on a four-year deal.
The Sixers, meanwhile, are willing to build a package around Dario Šarić, Robert Covington and multiple draft picks to acquire Leonard, but will not include Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid or Markelle Fultz.
In their talks with the Sixers, the Spurs have consistently asked for Šarić, Covington, Fultz and three future first-round picks in exchange for Leonard. Philadelphia has refused to include Fultz.
The Raptors could potentially build a trade for Leonard centered around either DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry, and some combination of OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and future draft pick compensation.
The issue with Toronto trading for Leonard is that he could potentially be a one-year rental. Leonard will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019.
Even without a guarantee he’ll stay beyond next season, however, it appears the Raptors and other teams aren’t afraid to trade for Leonard, who when healthy, is a top-five player in the NBA. Multiple general managers told Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher during the first weekend of the Las Vegas Summer League that they would trade for Leonard knowing the risks involved.
“I wouldn’t say we’re all scared to death to make a deal because there’s no chance he’ll re-sign [with a team somewhere other than L.A.],” an Eastern Conference general manager told Bucher. “PG [Paul George] did. C-Webb [Chris Webber] did.”