The San Antonio Spurs have been one the best-run sports organizations since the turn the century, making 22 consecutive postseason appearances along with five championships. The back-end of their run started in 2011, when the Spurs traded George Hill, a solid veteran point guard, for a pesky defender from San Diego State named Kawhi Leonard. This move would lead the Spurs to back-to-back NBA Finals and its franchise’s fifth and most recent title in 2014. Leonard, of course, took home the Finals MVP during that series as well.
However, Leonard’s Spurs’ tenure has soured as of late. After suffering a cheap shot by Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia in the 2017 Western Conference finals, Leonard missed the entire 2017-18 season with a calf injury. To make matters worse, his relationship with the Spurs has collapsed. Now, Leonard is wanting out of San Antonio and seeks to win a championship elsewhere. His decision brings much controversy surrounding the NBA, and here is how his decision could benefit the sport.
A More Competitive NBA Finals
During the last four seasons, the world witnessed the Cleveland Cavaliers face-off against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. This wasn’t good for the league this season as the series not only lasted four games but also saw the lowest Finals ratings in over a decade. Wherever Leonard goes, that team becomes an instant title contender. If Leonard were to also lead his team to the Finals, we should expect a six to seven-game series with the games being tightly contested.
A Potential Balance Among the Conferences
The East and West have been lopsided in the NBA ever since Michael Jordan’s second retirement from the sport. Since 2000, the NBA champion has come from the Western Conference 13 times, whereas the East has only produced five. If Leonard were to get traded to the East’s top teams, the Boston Celtics or the Philadelphia 76ers, this would make for an evenly matched conference on both sides.
Reincarnation of the Celtics-Lakers Rivalry?
The greatest rivalry in NBA history is undoubtedly Celtics-Lakers. Going back from the days of Bill Russell, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor, to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, and to briefly Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant. The Celtics-Lakers have brought some of the best basketball the league has seen. It’s been reported that Leonard wants to be a Laker and if that does happen, fellow free agents, Paul George and LeBron James could take their talents out West with him. With that said, we could see a LeBron vs. Kyrie Irving Finals. This would be a Finals that people wouldn’t mind seeing four years in a row, unlike the Cavaliers vs. Warriors.
More Off-Season Drama
The NBA has the most drama out of all four professional leagues: NFL, MLB, and NHL. Last off-season, a lot of moves were made such as Irving going to the Celtics, Chris Paul going to the Rockets, and Paul George and Carmelo Anthony getting traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. As I mentioned earlier, James and George are both impending free agents, and with Leonard possibly being on the trade block, we could see another exciting off-season that could change the landscape of the league.
Wherever Kawhi Leonard goes, the league will benefit as a result. Personally, I would love to see a Big 3 of LeBron James, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard. But, I would also like to see a balance of powers throughout the league entirely. Either way, NBA fans should be excited that this is happening. The drama is just getting started.