This summer, the NBA offseason has been full of surprises. It’s not often that a superstar player is on the trade block with no clear destination. What’s more intriguing concerning Kawhi Leonard is that not every team needed his services. That was the case when it came to the Philadelphia 76ers and Leonard. The moment news broke that Leonard wanted out of San Antonio, the NBA rumor mill went into overdrive. Bloggers, analysts, players, and fans tried their best to predict where the Spurs would send Kawhi Leonard.
While his preferred destination was the Los Angeles Lakers, the Spurs held their ground and sent him to Canada to pair with Kyle Lowry. While the Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, and others are shaking their head in disgust, the Philadelphia 76ers should be rejoicing.
According to FanSided, the Sixers were one of the teams rumored to be in the running for Leonard this summer. There were reports that the team was willing to offer Markelle Fultz with either Dario Saric or Robert Covington and picks. Well, luckily for the Sixers, the Raptors took the bait and Philly can now sit back and continue their ascension up the Eastern Conference. But what if? What if Brett Brown had made that deal?
Was Kawhi Leonard Really Needed?
Think about where the Philadelphia 76ers are for a moment. Fresh off a 52-win regular season and advancing to the second round of the playoffs, the team was expected to be big players this summer regarding free agency and trades. Another name tied to the Sixers was LeBron James. There were also rumors that the Sixers could be in the running to land Paul George. One rumor even had Brett Brown pulling off a miracle move and adding James and Leonard.
Luckily, nothing transpired and that is why the Philadelphia 76ers dodged a serious bullet.
For the team to have gained the services of Kawhi Leonard, that meant Brown would have had to let go of some great young/cheap talent for a player set to count against the cap for $23 million in 2018. Not only that, but he also has a player option in 2019 for $21 million. Not exactly the numbers or years the Sixers were looking for. Now, with Leonard’s heart supposedly set on the Lakers, what exactly would the team gain by trading away two or three starters plus a pick for a player set to leave after this year?
Raptors Let Sixers Off The Hook
Look around the chat rooms and Twitter responses after the Spurs and Raptors deal went through. Toronto fans are outraged at what went down and they have every right to be. DeMar DeRozan was beloved in Toronto and the team just gave away a top-15 player for one who supposedly doesn’t want to be there. If Leonard decides to depart in 2019, the Raptors will be left with nothing to show for losing DeRozan.
This is what the Philadelphia 76ers could not afford to happen. Imagine giving up Fultz along with Saric or Covington only to see the team watch Leonard walk out the door next summer. While the Sixers would still have the services of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, they would be out an up-and-coming power forward in Saric, one of the best wing defenders in Covington, and a shot creator in Fultz plus Leonard. After years of building a solid foundation, one player could take that all away. It was simply not worth it.
The Future Is Still Bright For the Philadelphia 76ers
Leonard is a stud on the court. There’s no denying that but the baggage that comes with him is not what a young team like the Sixers need at this point. Let’s be honest here. A team led by Leonard, Simmons, and Embiid may be in position for the No. 1 seed in the East but they’re not ready to dethrone the Golden State Warriors. With that said, even a Finals loss is not considered a win. Once that series is over, so is the marriage between Leonard and the Sixers.
Brett Brown was wise to back away from any deal with the Spurs. With their recent success, the Sixers no longer have those first-round picks stashed away. There are now rolling with the elite group of teams and will be forced to find those diamond in the rough players in the late first or early second rounds. This is the price for winning.
It’s weird to say, but the Philadelphia 76ers best move this offseason was not making any major moves.