Kawhi leonard rumors what are the spurs’ options if they offer the supermax extension – sbnation.com gas to liquid


There is reason for optimism. It felt like Aldridge’s time in San Antonio was done after a rough second-round playoff exit last season. He didn’t feel like he was being used correctly in the Spurs’ offense, and after a sit-down with Gregg Popovic, the issue was resolved. It was a wake-up call for Pop, but the reconciliation paved the way for Aldridge’s best season as a Spur.

Leonard’s scenario is different from Aldridge’s, and a few fences will need to be mended, if not bulldozed and re-built from scratch, but it’s clear there is precedent with Pop smoothing over relationships with his stars. After all, the trajectory of Leonard’s career could have been totally different had San Antonio not traded George Hill to Indiana for the 2011 NBA Draft pick they used on Leonard. And while he still would have been a solid two-way player on any other team, it’s hard to envision Leonard becomes a Finals MVP and one of the best players in the NBA as a member of any other franchise.

Returning to San Antonio would be the most lucrative move Leonard could make, at least on the court. Only the Spurs can offer Leonard the designated veteran extension this summer of 35 percent of the cap, projected at around $101 million. Leonard has been an All-NBA team member in two of the past three years and has only played for the Spurs in his career, making him eligible for a supermax payday.

This is the worst-case scenario for San Antonio. No team wants to remain in limbo while its star decides his future, a future that has a 50 percent chance of leaving the franchise in the dust. Indiana traded Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis the summer before George’s pending unrestricted free agency. Now, George could leave OKC and dish the Thunder the blow the Pacers were deft enough to avoid in the first place, while the Pacers are building a bright future around Oladipo and Sabonis.

San Antonio doesn’t want to be in OKC’s shoes. Should Leonard reject the supermax extension, it’d much prefer to be in Indiana’s. It doesn’t want Leonard to hold all the power next season before leaving them high and dry — or maybe staying put — when his first possible unrestricted free agency hits in 2019.

Consider this: Leonard is a bona fide star, and San Antonio is not the biggest market for a superstar basketball player. What The Claw loses by not signing a supermax deal — call it roughly $50 million over the duration of the contract — he could make up in excess with sponsorship and endorsement deals. Maybe he’ll be more likely to receive a more lucrative signature shoe contract from Jordan Brand if he’s in a bigger market.

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor cited several NBA executives who believe the Spurs would need “a grand slam offer” to part ways with the league’s premier two-way wing. It cost the Celtics Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first-round pick, and a future second-round pick to pry Kyrie Irving from Cleveland, and that trade looks more and more like a steal every day.

Leonard should do what he has been doing and get his health to 100 percent. He can’t make any decisions if he can’t play, and in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league like the NBA, Leonard has been forgotten with the surge of burgeoning, young wings across the country.

It would only take a few preseason games and a string of consistent regular season games to remind the NBA that he’s one of, if not the best two-way wings in the NBA. This is a player who was the difference, after all, in that Western Conference Finals matchup against the Warriors last year. San Antonio was up by 20-plus points in Game 1 before his injury. After he left, Golden State came back, stole the victory then swept the Spurs.

The Warriors are still Goliath in the NBA, and the Rockets posted the best record in the NBA. The Jazz are coming, and so are the Pelicans. The Trail Blazers, Thunder, Nuggets, and Timberwolves will all be in the mix. If Leonard returns for good, what will the Spurs do to improve their roster in an ever-improving Western Conference?

That’s the other thing he should be focused on. His return to the lineup automatically propels San Antonio to the top echelon of Western Conference teams, but the Spurs could benefit from improved guard play. The Spurs also made the third-fewest threes per game (8.8) last season. In a league that is becoming more and more trey-crazed every season, they’ll need to keep up.

But if Leonard truly wants out of San Antonio, he should do so in a manner similar to George’s Indiana exodus. PG13 gave Pacers management a heads-up that he didn’t want to re-sign after his contract was up, though you could argue with how clear he made that statement over time. Regardless, that tip jumpstarted Indy’s rebuild.