As I’m sure everyone reading this knows by now, Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor. The San Antonio Spurs shipped him to another country in the dead of the night on Wednesday, and at long last the draining Kawhi Leonard saga came to an end (for now). This officially confirms that the Sixers have struck out on all three superstars they were targeting this offseason. The takes following this news have been hot. There has been criticism of Brett Brown, criticism of ownership for not hiring a GM, and somehow, even Markelle Fultz has gotten criticism for this.
While I had been campaigning for the Sixers to acquire Kawhi Leonard for a long time, once word started to leak over the past few days that the Sixers had backed off of their Leonard pursuit, I was out. The Sixers knew as much about Kawhi as any team. Kawhi had been seeing the Sixers’ chief medical officer, Dr. Jonathan Glashow, over the past few months. Therefore, the Sixers potentially knew more about his injury than even the Spurs.
Along with that, Brett Brown coached Kawhi in San Antonio during his first two seasons, and remains good friends with Gregg Popovich to this day. I’m sure Popovich was honest with Brett throughout the process, and they talked daily throughout the season too. The fact that Brett Brown wasn’t willing to part with Markelle Fultz or Dario Saric in a package for him is telling. Brown was aggressively chasing a 3rd superstar to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, but didn’t have much interest in Kawhi Leonard, who would be a perfect fit on the court with the Sixers’ young core. But there was a whole lot more to take into account than just on the court.
At the end of the day, the Sixers knew more about the Kawhi Leonard situation than any team out there, maybe even the Spurs. They still didn’t make a serious run at him. I trust Brett Brown on this. And judging by the reaction from Kawhi and his camp to the Raptors trade, it is a bit relieving that we won’t have to deal with that headache. Kawhi and his group are going to be in LA next summer, one way or another. There is a distinct possibility that this upcoming season in Toronto is Dwightmare-ish.
So where does this leave the Sixers? They’ve struck out this offseason and appear to be running it back next season. Which is great! The Sixers will return a 52-win team that made a 24 win jump last season. This will be Joel Embiid’s first healthy offseason. Markelle Fultz will hopefully return and play well. Wilson Chandler is an upgrade over Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova off the bench, and we will see if they choose to fill the hole left by Nemanja Bjelica. It’s not unreasonable to expect a 5-10 win increase, which would mean a win total in the upper 50’s or in a best case scenario, lower 60’s. They will be fine. Get ready, folks. We’re running it back.