Report: Sixers Weighing Trade Options for Leonard
The Kawhi Leonard trade market is heating up with the Sixers, Celtics and Lakers being mentioned the most in trade discussions to acquire the two-time All-Star forward. In a recent article penned by Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated, the Spurs are said to covet Boston's Jayson Tatum in a deal for Leonard, but the Sixers have held "serious internal discussions" over the last 48 hours about Kawhi. Fischer notes that sources have said that the Spurs have interest in a package revolving around around forwards Robert Covington and Dario Saric.
Philadelphia’s internal discussions have focused on potential trade packages offering various young players and future draft selections. One team source says preliminary discussions with San Antonio revealed the Spurs have strong interest in a package involving burgeoning forwards Dario Saric and Robert Covington as well as a future first-round pick. A potential, more serious offer that Philadelphia is weighing internally includes Saric and Covington and the 2021 Miami Heat unprotected first-round pick the Sixers obtained in their draft-night deal with the Phoenix Suns.
Sources tell Sports Illustrated that although Leonard has been said to prefer Los Angeles, he's open to playing in other major markets.
While the Sixers seem to be considering a trade offer for Leonard that includes both Covington and Saric, the organization wouldn't budge on a trade involving the two leading up to draft because of how highly they value him. Fischer goes on to say the the Sixers made it clear to teams at that point in time that they weren't willing to part with Covington and Saric, being that they are players they think highly of and both are signed to team-friendly contracts.
Saric, 24, averaged 14.6 points and 6.7 rebounds this past season, shooting 45.3 percent from the floor and 39.3 percent from beyond. Saric's gritty style of play and activity on the offensive boards improved a ton in addition to his long-range shooting. Meanwhile, loved and hated by many in Philadelphia, Robert Covington had another strong year on the defensive end of the ball while also averaging 12.6 points on 41.3 percent shooting and 36.9 percent from three-point range. There's no doubting that losing these two in a trade would make the Sixers worse defensively, but adding Leonard's upside could end up overruling that aspect.
One thing to keep in mind when putting together a trade package for Leonard is his health. Kawhi played just nine games last season due to a mysterious quadriceps injury that many people believed was healed in time for him to play again this past season. Leonard rehabbed his injury in New York and he has returned close to full health, Shams Charania reported on June 19. The Sixers have already been through their fair share of injury problems with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. Leading up to this Sports Illustrated report, Markelle Fultz's name had been mentioned in potential trade packages, but perhaps his progress this summer has the Sixers weary about including him.
Brandon Apter is a contributor to 97.3 ESPN and managing editor at SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @bapter23.