Kawhi Leonard trade rumors: Spurs won't take anything less than 'grand-slam offer' for superstar

Amid all of the questions and chaos surrounding Kawhi Leonard's mysterious quadricep injury, it's easy to forget that he's only 26 years old. He's one of the most valuable players in the league. And with Leonard under contract next season and holding a player option for 2019-20, in spite of his reportedly fragile relationship with the Spurs, they aren't giving one of the best two-way players in the NBA up for nothing.

In fact, according to "The Ringer," it would take a "grand-slam offer" for the Spurs to part ways with their star player. The information comes via multiple NBA executives, per Kevin O'Connor. 

I've heard from multiple NBA executives that San Antonio won't settle for anything less than a grand-slam offer. If offers were underwhelming around the draft and the start of free agency, the Spurs might opt to let the saga drag into training camp, or even into the season. Leonard could always rekindle his relationship with the team, or return to the floor and increase his trade value.   

Again, this shouldn't be surprising, but it does undermine some of the pontificating about the Spurs having no leverage over Leonard. Part of their leverage comes from the fact that they drafted him, but the other part comes from the fact that next season is just another one of his prime years, and it's a potential contract year should he choose to eventually opt out.

Teams interested in trading for Leonard must also consider the 15 percent trade kicker in his contract. That kicker, plus the max, could be a difficult pill to swallow for a team that would undoubtedly be giving up other key pieces.

It isn't like Leonard is at the Spurs' mercy, however. The team got itself involved in the least Spurs-like situation imaginable this past season. Leonard's prolonged absences from the team and growing disconnect between himself and the front office have R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich in an uncharacteristic position.

With that being said, Popovich has repaired relationships before. LaMarcus Aldridge was unhappy with his role on the Spurs initially, but Popovich catered to his game moving forward to placate the star. This situation has been more prolonged, but Aldridge emerged as a terrific player for them last season. He may not be an outspoken leader, but neither is Leonard.

The deal that O'Connor refers to specifically would be one with the 76ers, who certainly have the capital to get him should they want to go that route. However, while O'Connor talks of trading Leonard as an inevitability -- even citing the Raptors being forced into dealing Vince Carter for less than his value as a comparison -- there is another option: They hang onto Leonard and move forward with him.

That's looking increasingly unlikely as time goes on, and Leonard will have suitors, but it will hinge on what a "grand-slam offer" looks like to the Spurs. For Leonard, it would have to be one heck of a package. If he returns at full health next year, then the Spurs will look to get back into the ranks of the Western Conference's elite. They may even repair the relationship with their superstar in the process.

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