By the time the clock strikes midnight and the NBA’s free agency moratorium period ends tomorrow night, the San Antonio Spurs would be smart to have traded their enigmatic superstar forward Kawhi Leonard to the L.A. Lakers.
The problem facing the Spurs is that Kawhi’s trade value is never going to be higher than it is right now. If they wait to trade until after free agency ends, Kawhi’s trade value will not only go down but the Spurs would be required to take back $20 million in matching salaries, which is not what a team wants to do when it is trading for young stars and draft picks. In fact, waiting to trade Kawhi until after free agency would cost the Spurs $10 million in cap space.
Even the Spurs initial trade request of Ingram, Kuzma, Hart, two picks, and two pick swaps for Kawhi would have to be made before Friday because once the Lakers finalize deals and go over the cap, they’ll be required essentially to take back in salaries what they send out in a trade. This trade has the Lakers receiving $20.1 million and sending $10.9 million, a $9.2 million variance for which the Lakers don’t have any tradable contract other than Lonzo Ball.
That means, if the Spurs want to trade with the Lakers, they need to make a deal before Friday because the Lakers will not have the contracts to make the trade until the midseason trade deadline unless a third team is included who would absorb Luol Deng’s 2-year $37 million contract. Even that opportunity is likely disappear come Friday because the Lakers’ primary game plan clearly is to clear cap space to sign Kawhi Leonard in free agency summer of 2019.
Meanwhile, the Lakers are pursuing other options on multiple fronts to put even more pressure on the Spurs and the Celtics and 76ers have reportedly made all their top players ‘off limits’ with respect to a Kawhi Leonard trade.
Bottom line, the Spurs need to trade Kawhi Leonard before Friday.