It’s been a rough season for Kawhi Leonard. Owing to a right quadriceps injury, the small forward with the San Antonio Spurs had to sit out the first 27 games. Since then, he’s suffered further injuries and setbacks, though he also achieved some victories, including a season high against the Brooklyn Nets. In all, he only played 9 games during the entire season—one increasingly fraught with drama and uncertainty about the future.
Now it looks like it’s likely that Leonard will be traded away by the Spurs. Leonard and the team seem to have clashed regarding how his injuries should be managed, resulting in something of a falling out. And that’s putting it lightly,—the rift is apparently so wide now as to be irreparable. Leonard wants to leave, and it’s doubtful the Spurs want to deal with this issue any longer in spite of Leonard’s value.
A lot of teams are likely to think twice before making a bid for a player who has spent so much of the past season down and out—but it is potentially an excellent opportunity, especially for a team like the Chicago Bulls.
For one thing, the Bulls have the bargaining power to bring Leonard onboard. Indications are strong that Leonard wants to leave the Spurs, and the Bulls might have a shot at getting him if they offer a package deal, perhaps to include Zach LaVine. If they decide they want Leonard, it should be possible to get him.
For another, Leonard brings a lot of skills and attributes which the Bulls could use. He’s versatile and flexible and great at scoring in creative ways. He adapts to different situations on the court. He takes a balanced approach to the game, never neglecting offense or defense. Such a player would be easy to incorporate and would help to balance out existing shortcomings. Kawhi was also taking on more and more of a leadership role in the Spurs before his injuries. This too would be an asset to the young Bulls team.
These traits have combined to make Leonard one of the best players in the NBA—at least when he isn’t injured. Indeed, this was reflected in NBA 2K18, which assigned him the second-highest player rating last year. In fact, it will be fascinating to see how all of this plays out both in the real-life court and in NBA 2K19 news.
Will the Bulls trade for Leonard? It’s hard to say. There are multiple paths open to them at this point, and this is only one of them—but it is one well worth considering. Leonard’s injury problems could be ongoing, it’s true—and that would be unfortunate. But he could also very well make a full recovery. When he does, chances are good he’ll get right back to playing as one of the top athletes in the NBA. If the Bulls are smart, hopefully they’ll capitalize on that, and do so before another team jumps on the opportunity.