Spurs Must Pay To Keep Their Emerging Star

| by Max Wohlmuth

After drafting new players, teams can only hope they have found the pieces necessary to winning a championship.

Recently, Kawhi Leonard has stepped into the light as the San Antonio Spurs’ next great player and joined the likes of his current teammates Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker.

Leonard is currently still the first contract he signed with the Spurs. He made $1.9 million during the 2013-2014 season and will make only $2.9 million next season. The Spurs are getting much more than what they are paying for from Leonard.

However, after next season, Leonard’s current contract will end. The Spurs have until Oct. 31 to negotiate an extension. Otherwise, Leonard hits the market as a restricted free agent next summer. Just how much will keeping Leonard cost the Spurs?

After the most recent season, it is hard to argue against Kawhi Leonard being one of the Top-10 best small forwards in the NBA. The 10th highest paid small forward during the previous season was the Denver Nugget’s Danilo Gallinari, who made $10.1 million. Leonard clearly deserves a significant raise, and the Spurs will probably have to pay him something comparable to Gallinari’s contract, if not better.

The Spurs have two options. They can renegotiate with Leonard for a new contract, or they can wait until free agency next summer. He would be a restricted free agent, so the Spurs can match any offer another team makes Leonard.

Essentially, San Antonio has the opportunity to try and negotiate a new contract that would pay Leonard less than what he would make next summer. Or, Leonard will learn how much other teams will pay for him, and the Spurs will have to match that.

The Spurs should really focus on signing him now. The fact that Leonard has expressed interest in wanting to stay in San Antonio is definitely going to help the Spurs in resigning him. Further, the Spurs could strike another bargain signing Leonard for less than what he will cost on the open market because his numbers continue to increase year to year.

During his rookie campaign, Leonard averaged 11.9 points and 7.7 rebounds. During his third year, his points per game increased to 15.8 while his rebounding, which dipped during his second year, equaled that of his rookie season. Shooting was a major concern before Leonard was drafted. Last season, he finished third in field goal percentage on San Antonio. If his steady growth is any indication, Leonard’s production is likely to increase next season as well.

With the end of the Tim Duncan Era looming in the distance, Kawhi Leonard’s role with the Spurs would become increasingly important. However, if the Spurs want to watch Leonard reach his full potential, they are going to have to pay him.