Report: Gasol, Leonard connected to Sixers in potential trade
The Philadelphia 76ers have been consumed with sub-par Summer League play and whether Markelle Fultz has reformed his jump shot before the start of the season, at least that's how it has felt in the last couple weeks.
The Sixers lost out on the LeBron James sweepstakes before they were even given a chance, and Paul George shocked the world when the clock struck midnight on July 1 by re-signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It seemed for awhile that the Sixers would also be missing out on adding Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard as well, after not coming to terms of an agreement for the superstar.
But as the weeks go on and Leonard remains an option for teams, the Sixers are still thought of by many around the NBA as being the favorites for the 26-year-old.
NBA journalist Chris Sheridan had an interesting story come out on Wednesday regarding the Sixers and Spurs and Philadelphia's pursuit of Kawhi Leonard. Sheridan said that the road to Kawhi could also bring veteran power forward Pau Gasol to Philly, which on the surface, doesn't seem like the greatest of ideas. But as Sheridan digs further into it, it might make the most sense for the Spurs, especially if they want to move Leonard to the team that can offer the best package.
The “Uncle Dennis” factor is making this a peculiar situation, but when a reporter as clued in as Jabari Young of The Express News writes that Leonard would OK an extension with the Sixers, and when folks spending their days in the 120-degree heat of Las Vegas are declining to steer you in a new direction, you have what is known in the business as “good information.”
Does that mean Pau Gasol will be playing for the Sixers next season? No.
But as I have reported already, the Miami Heat are very much alive in the Leonard discussions, the Sacramento Kings remain a viable conduit for a three-way deal and although the Spurs would rather keep Gasol than include him in a deal that would rid them of Leonard, they are examining all options — one of which is sending Gasol to Philly in order to bring back the bushel full of assets that the Sixers are more than willing to mix and match.
As Sheridan says, the Sixers have the "bushel of assets" needed to make a trade with San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard possible. While the Sixers are chalk full of those assets, the chances of the team shipping Markelle Fultz to the Spurs are still very slim, as Robert Covington and Dario Saric still seem like the centerpieces of a deal.
Everyone in the NBA knows that an offer constructed around Dario Saric and Robert Covington has been put forth by the Sixers, and everyone around the NBA expects Gregg Popovich to eventually take care of his former assistant, Brown, despite swiping Marco Belinelli away from him in the first hours of free agency. Whether or not Saric ends up in the deal is an open question.
Sheridan is a seasoned NBA journalist, spending most of his career at ESPN. And if "everyone around the NBA expects Gregg Popovich to eventually take care of Brett Brown," then it seems like the chances of the Sixers winning the jackpot for Kawhi Leonard is more likely than not, putting them clear favorites for him.
As Pau Gasol goes, if he does make his way to the Sixers along with Leonard, I can't see a situation where the 38-year-old stays on the team with two years remaining on his three-year $48 million deal. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if Gasol ended up being a buyout candidate with roster spots still looking tight. Although, the Sixers could still use another veteran presence and a guy like Gasol would be a perfect fit off the bench to come in a spot for Joel Embiid at center or in his usual power forward role.
If the Spurs including Gasol in a deal with Leonard for any combination of Sixers players increases the chances of Leonard coming to Philly, then sign me up for that. Even though the idea of Leonard walking for free agency after this upcoming season scares me, I would be more inclined to see how this season goes, ultimately convincing Kawhi that Philly is his best career option and the best chance of him getting back to the NBA Finals.