Nothing of note has actually happened yet in this NBA offseason, but the rumor mill has still been active. The biggest storyline of the past week surrounds San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard sat out nearly the entire 2017-18 season with a quadriceps injury amidst rumors that he was frustrated with how the Spurs were dealing with his injury.
Many sources finally confirmed last week that Leonard officially wants to be traded by the Spurs. The rest of the league has been figuring out how it can acquire one of the game’s five best players ever since.
Top sportsbook 5Dimes has made odds available regarding Leonard’s opening night team for the 2018-19. Let’s evaluate the most likely destinations and then offer some betting predictions’ advice with our pick at the end.
Most Likely Scenarios From Oddsmakers
Los Angeles Lakers (+300 with 5Dimes)
The Lakers are often valued highly by U.S. oddsmakers in a variety of different betting scenarios. The team’s history and perception as a popular destination for superstars, as well as its fans’ eagerness to bet on the squad, creates lines that are often a bit skewed.
This line also qualifies. The Lakers would be more likely to land Leonard if he had a say in where he goes, as the Spurs superstar has Los Angeles’ most popular team as his preferred destination, or so it has been reported. However, the Spurs may be resistant to trade with other Western Conference teams.
San Antonio has no obligation to trade Leonard to the Lakers, and it probably doesn’t want to facilitate another potential super team in the West if LeBron James also goes to Los Angeles. The Spurs will merely look for the best return available, and while the Lakers do have some assets in young players Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, other squads could have more intriguing packages to offer.
San Antonio Spurs (+320 with 5Dimes)
Just one year ago, the Spurs had another star requesting a trade: LaMarcus Aldridge. San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich ended up convincing Aldridge to return to the team and sign a contract extension. He had a fantastic season in 2017-18.
Can the Spurs pull off the same thing with Leonard? Maybe, maybe not, but keep in mind this bet only concerns his team on opening night. Even if the Spurs do plan to trade Leonard, they may elect to have him start the season on the roster in an attempt to improve his trade value. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that the Spurs are in no rush to trade their superstar, so don’t be surprised if a deal doesn’t get done until the 2018-19 season starts.
Phoenix Suns (+425 with 5Dimes)
The Suns’ situation is weird here, and a microcosm of the craziness that is the NBA offseason. Reporters have had conflicting scoops on whether the Suns are attempting to join the Kawhi sweepstakes. Some have suggested that Phoenix is willing to trade the top overall pick in Thursday’s draft, along with other assets, for Leonard, while others have been adamant that the Suns do not want to do that. Then, on Monday, the Suns’ odds to acquire Kawhi at 5Dimes were all over the place, going from +1700 to -140 in just a matter of hours. The odds have mostly stabilized since then.
For what it’s worth, Phoenix absolutely should not get rid of the No. 1 overall pick for Leonard. If the Suns were closer to contending for a Western Conference championship, it would make sense. However, Phoenix had the worst record in the league last year, and even a healthy Leonard would probably get the Suns nothing better than a low playoff seed.
Leonard would then be a free agent next season, and he would almost assuredly bolt for another team. So, while the Suns’ potential trade packages for Leonard could be tempting for San Antonio, it seems unlikely that they will actually offer what some people think they might offer.
Boston Celtics (+440 with 5Dimes)
From an assets standpoint, Boston seems to have an excellent chance of acquiring Leonard. They have some good draft picks, along with lots of young players on good contracts, to offer the Spurs. General manager Danny Ainge is also an aggressive trader who isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on massive moves. Ainge could come up with several different trade packages that are realistic and palatable for the Spurs.
Boston is already probably going to be the best team in the Eastern Conference next season, but with a player like Kawhi Leonard in place of one or two of their young forwards, the Celtics could quickly become the best team in the entire league.
Also, remember that San Antonio may be more likely to trade out of its conference, so the Celtics have an edge in that respect.
Kawhi Leonard Destination Predictions & Picks Verdict
The Celtics are your best bet, though the lines are changing frequently. It’s important to remember with trade situations like this that players’ requests (like Leonard wanting to join the Lakers) mean absolutely nothing to the team that is deciding on a trade. The main concern of the team with the disgruntled player is what they get in return.
Boston definitely has the most attractive assets, and none of the other teams listed by 5Dimes seemed like they could compete with a package that the Celtics, Suns or Lakers could potentially offer.
The incumbent Spurs are a good second betting option after Boston. San Antonio is one of the most respected franchises in professional sports, and head coach Gregg Popovich still hasn’t gotten his sit-down with Leonard yet. Don’t rule out the possibility of the Spurs mending fences with Leonard or the possibility of them waiting until the regular season so he can put to rest concerns about his health.
- To summarize, and to pick one prediction, we would put our money on Kawhi Leonard joining the Boston Celtics (+440 with 5Dimes).