Between now and Thursday’s draft, the San Antonio Spurs will be fielding calls from pretty much every team around the league and the Wizards are included. It’s not likely that they’ll be an impact player in the race to pry Leonard from that tight, Spursian grip, but they should try anyway.
The Wizards have a dearth of young assets on the team, yes. But there’s not a player on the Wizards current roster that should be deemed untouchable in a deal of this magnitude. Leonard is a top-five talent in the league when healthy and acquiring him means building a winner for the next five or so years if he commits long-term. We know how good he is — if you don’t, I’m not sure why you’re reading this. We don’t need to dig in any more than that.
First, let’s rank the Wizards assets, from cheapest to most expensive.
- 15th overall pick
- 44th overall pick
- Kelly Oubre Jr.
- Tomas Satoransky
- Otto Porter Jr.
- Bradley Beal
- John Wall
Picks are always going to be the most valuable asset a team has. It’s cheap and young talent that can be molded into anything over a four year period. Oubre and Satoransky are both young talent on cheap deals. Porter is a max player on a shorter deal, despite coming with a trade kicker, and is one of the best shooters in the league which is essential at his position. Wall and Beal are the Wizards’ two best players, but their contracts are massive in both length and money. Plus, Wall’s knee is a question moving forward.
So there you have it. The cupboard is pretty bare, yes. But the competition the Wizards could hypothetically face in the Leonard sweepstakes might not be that steep.
What the Spurs want in return
To this point, it’s not exactly concrete what they’re asking for. But with a player like Leonard you can assume they’ll want picks, young pieces and veteran players if we use last year’s Kyrie Irving deal as precedent.
Why the Wizards make sense
The Wizards’ cupboard is dry in terms of assets. The 15th pick is solid, but it won’t beat a high lottery pick from the Kings or even the eighth pick from the Cavaliers. However, the Wizards have established talent they can center a package around, which might be appealing to San Antonio, since they’re still in a position to compete with LaMarcus Aldridge or Gregg Popovich. Moving Porter along with young assets in Kelly Oubre and Tomas Satoransky would work here.
They can throw in a future first and the 44th pick to sweeten the pot and the deal is a bit more attractive. Is it beating higher lottery picks? Probably not. But the Spurs are in a position where they’ll want prospects and players who can win now. The Wizards have some tools that could help them do it.
Here’s why I think it’s still unlikely
Forget about the teams ahead of them in the draft lottery — the Wizards won’t be able to beat a deal from the Celtics or the 76ers and both of them are likely to be interested in trading for him.
The Celtics could easily beat any package the Wizards offer with some mix of Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum plus this year’s draft pick or the future picks they hold from the Clippers and Grizzlies. They’re out of ammo from the Brooklyn trade, but they’ve got more than enough to blow most teams in the league out of the water.
The 76ers have six picks in this year’s draft including the 10th overall pick from the Lakers. Plus, they’ve got Markelle Fultz and Dario Saric to throw in as well. Both of those packages are going to be tough for the Wizards to beat.
Beyond that, it might not make sense from Washington’s standpoint to make a push for Kawhi. They’d obviously be getting a top talent in the league, but his health is still an issue — he only played in nine games last year. Plus, they’d be giving up three players on a thin roster to get one big one in return. They’d lose a pick, which is young cheap talent they desperately need and would still find themselves in a tough cap situation.
Leonard may well be worth that in Washington. He would instantly make them a front runner in the Eastern Conference and a threat to make the Finals depending on how healthy the team is and the roster behind their stars. But there are too many questions and too many obstacles in the way for this to realistically happen. It’s fun to dream, though.