Would you trade Andrew Wiggins and some first-round draft picks for Kawhi Leonard?
That’s a question explored by Zach Lowe in a recent ESPN.com column. The column starts with the idea that the Lakers and Spurs don’t have a perfect match right now in any potential deal to pair Leonard with LeBron James in L.A. And really it begins before that, with the apparent rift that exists between the Spurs and Leonard, who has one more year guaranteed on his deal. (After that, it’s a player option year before free agency, and the contract reportedly includes a trade kicker.)
Anyway, if the time isn’t quite right for the Lakers to make the move, Lowe speculates in the column if the Clippers could make sense. Short of either of those outcomes — and making the assumption that Leonard staying in San Antonio is impossible — Lowe ventured into talking about other “mystery” teams jumping in the mix with a blue-chip trade target at the center of talks.
For the Wolves, that’s Wiggins. The 23-year-old is about to enter into his max contract, which Lowe writes “probably carries negative trade value.” By now you know the story on Wiggins. Super talented. Great scorer. Seems to draw critics at every level for lackluster energy on the court.
If indeed his max contract carries negative value, the Spurs are taking a risk in assuming that deal. But in case they wanted some first-round draft choices, and the Wolves would be willing to part with that asset for the right to move on from Wiggins — then things could get interesting. San Antonio in that scenario is basically “buying” the draft picks, and getting a flier on Wiggins as part of the swap. And assuming Leonard is as good as gone, you’d think that the Spurs might as well try to maximize the return for moving him. We’re assuming full health for Leonard, at least for the purposes of this argument.
If you’re Minnesota, it’s risky. Jimmy Butler could be gone after next year. Leonard could choose to bounce, too. So essentially you’d be hoping that things clicked in one year under Tom Thibodeau with three superstar players, at least enough to convince those guys to stick it out in Minnesota.
You could in that scenario be left with Karl-Athony Towns and little else, if Butler and Leonard fled, and you’d given away Wiggins and some draft picks. That’s probably about the worst case scenario, even if you still have a superstar in Towns.
Then again, there’s risk in simply standing pat, hoping that Butler and Towns and Thibs will figure it all out — and Andrew Wiggins will grow into a player worthy of the megacontract.
Risk on both sides of that coin. I know plenty of Wolves fans would be willing to do that deal right now on a moment’s notice.
For expanded thoughts from Lowe on a possible Leonard trade with as many as 15 other teams, read the full column here.