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NBA PM: Can Jimmer Fredette Save Career?

After three disappointing seasons, can soon-to-be free agent Jimmer Fredette salvage his career? … Understanding the Raymond Felton situation

Alex Kennedy

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The Sacramento Kings are nearing a buyout with Jimmer Fredette, who was making $2,439,840 this season in the last year of his contract. If he clears waivers, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.

It wasn’t long ago that Fredette was an NCAA superstar and household name. During his senior year at BYU, Fredette’s games were must-watch TV as he averaged 28.9 points while shooting 45 percent from the field and 40 percent three-point range.

He returned BYU to relevancy and, in the process, became a star. Before long, he was being mentioned in rap tracks by Lil Wayne (“I got a chopper and a trimmer shootin’ like Jimmer”) and spawning tribute songs all about him (“Teach Me How to Jimmer” has received millions of views on YouTube). Many people purchased his college jersey and “Jimmered” entered the national lexicon, when Fredette would light up a team or when a shooter in a random park would knock down a shot in his defender’s eye.

In the 2011 NBA Draft, Fredette was selected 10th overall and traded to the Kings. At the time, Sacramento’s decision-makers were split on whether to draft Fredette. Most people in the front office felt that he was overrated and that his game wouldn’t translate to the NBA, which was hard to disagree with since he isn’t very athletic, struggles mightily on the defensive end and needed the ball in his hands to thrive at BYU. However, at the time, the Kings were desperate to sell tickets and excite fans, so they selected Fredette. The Kings got what they wanted, parading Jimmer out in front of fans as much as possible. He made appearances across the city, from the Kings’ facility to packed shopping malls.

However, once Fredette took the court, there wasn’t much for the fans to be excited about.

Fredette’s first three seasons in the NBA have been disappointing, to say the least. He has started just seven games. As a rookie, he averaged 7.6 points, 1.8 assists, 1.2 rebounds and .5 steals, all of which remain career-highs since his stats have dropped each year he has been in the league. This year, prior to the buyout, Fredette was averaging 5.9 points, 1.5 assists, 1.1 rebounds and .3 steals through 41 games.

Fredette played for three different head coaches – Paul Westphal, Keith Smart and Mike Malone – in three seasons and he wasn’t able to contribute in a significant way under any of them.

With that said, executives believe that Fredette still has plenty of time to prove himself. After all, he just turned 25 years old. Even if he doesn’t become a starter in the NBA, it’s possible that he could carve out a sixth man role that allows him to create instant offense off of the bench. Also, it is worth noting that this is actually Fredette’s best season by per 36 standards, averaging 18.7 points, 4.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals when adjusted. One executive commented that Fredette has played relatively well when given playing time and said that he could see him becoming more of an impact player if given the minutes.

It also helps that Fredette has shown flashes throughout his career, most recently two weeks ago against the New York Knicks when he had 24 points in 27 minutes on 9-14 shooting from the field and 6-8 from three-point range. It was a career-high for Fredette and it came at a good time.

So why are the Kings buying him out now? Well, the team tried to trade him before the Feb. 20 deadline, engaging in serious talks with the Denver Nuggets and preliminary talks with others. But at the end of the day, the Kings weren’t able to land an asset for Fredette. Had the Kings held onto Fredette for the remainder of the year, he’d likely walk as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Rather than forcing him to wait out the rest of the season in a limited role on a losing team, the Kings decided to let him go now so that he has an opportunity to prove himself before hitting the market. Agents really appreciate – and remember – that kind of gesture and it only helps create a player-friendly reputation for the front office.

This also allows the Kings to add a player with that open roster spot. They can sign a free agent or they can audition a number of D-League players to try to find someone who can help them down the road. It’s not uncommon for a team to offer a D-League player a guaranteed contract for the remainder of the season, along with one or two team option years. Both sides are happy because the player gets a chance to show what he can do in the NBA and the team gets to lock up the player’s rights for multiple years.

It remains to be seen where Fredette will land next. The Nuggets may have some interest after trying to trade for him, and the New York Knicks have been mentioned as a potential landing spot since they have two open roster spots. The Utah Jazz are an obvious fit since he was a fan favorite at BYU and he would fit in with the Jazz’s young team (while generating some fan interest). However, Utah has 15 players on their roster and reportedly haven’t discussed bringing in Fredette.

Some team will sign the guard, and he’ll have a shot at salvaging his career. He may never be as productive and famous as he was during his final season at BYU, but it’s still possible for him to have long career in the NBA if he works hard and finds his niche.

Understanding What Happened to Raymond Felton

There are a lot of questions surrounding the future of New York Knicks guard Raymond Felton in light of his recent legal trouble. Michael McCann, a Massachusetts attorney and the founding director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, mapped out the situation for Sports Illustrated and addressed some of the key concepts.

What did Felton do wrong?

“Raymond Felton has been charged with three offenses under New York law for unlawful possession of a firearm. The most serious is second-degree criminal possession, a felony charge that carries a minimum sentence of three and a half years behind bars. Felton’s charges stem from his estranged wife, Ariane Raymondo-Felton, reportedly handing over a Belgian pistol (FNH 5.7×28 mm) to New York police and claiming it belonged to Felton. Raymondo-Felton’s decision to turn over the gun appears connected to a heated argument Felton may have had with his girlfriend, whose name has not been released by law enforcement.”

Will he go to jail?

“Unfortunately for Felton, New York is probably the worst state to be charged with illegal possession of guns. Prosecutors do not need to establish how Felton obtained the gun or why he possessed the gun, only that he possessed the gun. Felton has thus been charged with a strict liability offense: if he possessed the gun, he’s guilty and a judge would sentence him to at least three and a half years behind bars. Felton could seek a plea deal in hopes of a lesser sentence. Former NFL star Plaxico Burress, who faced similar charges in New York, ultimately pleaded guilty to lesser charges, but it was far from a legal win for Burress. Burress spent nearly two years behind bars.”

Can he say the gun wasn’t his?

“A legal defense that could work for Felton is that he did not possess this gun. In order to gain a conviction, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Felton actually possessed the Belgian pistol. This point reveals a crucial difference in evidence between the incidents involving Burress and Felton. While Burress had no logical way of arguing he didn’t possess a gun used to shoot himself, Felton’s connections to the Belgian pistol are less obvious. As of now, the only reported link between Felton and this pistol is that his estranged wife handed the pistol over to law enforcement and claimed it belonged to Felton. If that remains the only link, watch for Felton to portray his estranged wife as unreliable and, given their pending divorced, biased. He may raise similar themes about his alleged girlfriend if she testifies against him.”

Can he still play for the Knicks?

“An immediate challenge for Felton is whether he can travel with the Knicks and leave the state of New York while facing the charges. As part of the bail process, Felton will have to convince a judge that he is not a flight risk or a danger to the public, and that he needs to travel with the Knicks in order to fulfill his employment contract.

Of even greater concern to Felton is whether he will face an NBA suspension. … New commissioner Adam Silver will face his first major disciplinary decision with Felton. Like Stern, Silver is an attorney and he will likely scrutinize the charges and available evidence before making a decision. Silver will also rely on the counsel of Rick Buchanan, the league’s general counsel and executive vice president. Silver and Buchanan undoubtedly know that the league’s image is tarnished with fans, media and lawmakers when players are connected to guns. On the other hand, they do not want to punish a player who may ultimately be cleared of any wrongdoing. This is a crucial point for Felton as he considers his legal options: if he pleads guilty to any crime, the NBA would be clearly justified in suspending him.”

Can the Knicks void his contract?

“Felton’s greatest worry may be whether the Knicks will use these charges as grounds to void his contract. Felton’s contract calls for him to earn $3.6 million this season, $3.7 million next season and a player option for $4.0 million in 2015-16. Felton is averaging a career-low 10.3 points and his play has drawn much criticism this season, with the gun charges only further hurting his standing with Knicks officials. It stands to reason the Knicks may be interested in severing ties with their point guard all together.

The Knicks could try to terminate Felton’s contract under Clause 16 of the NBA’s Uniform Player Contract. In theory, this clause allows NBA teams to void a contract if a player, “fails, refuses, or neglects to conform his personal conduct to standards of good citizenship, good moral character (defined here to mean not engaging in acts of moral turpitude, whether or not such acts would constitute a crime), and good sportsmanship…” The Knicks would have to first place Felton on waivers. Assuming he clears waivers — a safe bet — the Knicks would then notify Felton that his contract has been voided. To be sure, the Knicks’ legal argument for terminating Felton’s contract would be strengthened if Felton is convicted or if he pleads guilty.

In reality, the Knicks would be inviting a legal fight if they tried to void Felton’s contract. Any attempt would be met with a grievance filed by the players’ association to a neutral arbitrator.”

Be sure to read the entire article on Sports Illustrated by clicking here.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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NBA Daily: Looking At The 2018 Draft Class By Tiers

The NBA Draft is a hard thing to predict, especially when it comes to draft order and individual team needs, Basketball Insiders publisher Steve Kyler takes a look at how this draft looks in tiers.

Steve Kyler

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Looking At The 2018 Draft In Tiers

While Mock Drafts are an easy way to look at how the NBA Draft might play out, what they do no do is give a sense of what a specific player might be as a player at the next level. With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at how some of the notable NBA draft prospects project.

It’s important to point out that situation and circumstance often impact how a player develops, even more so than almost any other variable.

So while the goal here is to give a sense of how some NBA teams and insiders see a draft prospect’s likely potential, it is by no means meant to suggest that a player can’t break out of his projection and become more or sometimes less than his he was thought to be.

Every draft class has examples of players projected to be one thing that turns out to be something else entirely, so these projections are not meant to be some kind of final empirical judgment or to imply a specific draft position, as each team may value prospects differently.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at the 2018 NBA Draft in Tiers.

The Potential Future All-Stars

DeAndre Ayton – Arizona – C – 7’0″ – 245 lbs – 20 yrs
Luka Doncic – Real Madrid – SG – 6’7″ – 218 lbs – 19 yrs
Michael Porter Jr – Missouri – SF/PF – 6’10” – 216 lbs – 20 yrs

Maybe Stars, But Likely High-Level Starters

Jaren Jackson Jr. – Michigan State – PF – 6’10” – 225 lbs – 19 yrs
Marvin Bagley III – Duke – PF – 6’11” – 220 lbs – 19 yrs
Wendell Carter – Duke – PF – 6’10” – 257 lbs – 19 yrs
Mohamed Bamba – Texas – C – 7’0″ – 216 lbs – 20 yrs
Collin Sexton – Alabama – PG – 6’2″ – 184 lbs – 19 yrs
Mikal Bridges – Villanova – SG/SF – 6’7″ – 210 lbs – 22 yrs
Robert Williams – Texas A&M – C – 6’9″ – 235 lbs – 21 yrs
Miles Bridges – Michigan State – SF/PF – 6’7″ – 230 lbs – 20 yrs
Dzanan Musa – Cedevita – SF – 6′ 9″ – 195 lbs – 19 yrs
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Kentucky – SG – 6′ 6″ – 181 lbs – 20 yrs
Trae Young – Oklahoma – PG – 6’2″ – 180 lbs – 20 yrs

Maybe Starters, But Surely Rotation Players

Kevin Knox – Kentucky – SF – 6’9″ – 206 lbs – 19 yrs
Troy Brown – Oregon – SG – 6’6″ – 210 lbs – 19 yrs
Khyri Thomas – Creighton – SG – 6′ 3″ – 210 lbs – 22 yrs
Zhaire Smith – Texas Tech – SG – 6′ 5″ – 195 lbs – 19 yrs
Rodions Kurucs – FC Barcelona B – SF – 6′ 9″ – 220 lbs – 20 yrs
Aaron Holiday – UCLA – PG – 6′ 1″ – 185 lbs – 22 yrs
Jacob Evans – Cincinnati – SF – 6′ 6″ – 210 lbs – 21 yrs
De’Anthony Melton – USC – PG – 6’4″ – 190 lbs – 20 yrs

The Swing For The Fence Prospects – AKA Boom-Or-Bust

Lonnie Walker – Miami – SG – 6’4″ – 206 lbs – 20 yrs
Mitchell Robinson – Chalmette HS – C – 7′ 0″ – 223 lbs – 20 yrs
Anfernee Simons – IMG Academy – SG – 6′ 5″ – 177 lbs – 19 yrs
Jontay Porter – Missouri – C – 6′ 11″ – 240 lbs – 19 yrs
Lindell Wigginton – Iowa State – PG – 6′ 2″ – 185 lbs – 20 yrs
Bruce Brown – Miami – SG – 6’5″ – 191 lbs – 22 yrs
Isaac Bonga – Skyliners (Germany) – SF/SG – 6’9″ – 203 lbs – 19 yrs
Hamidou Diallo – Kentucky – SG – 6’5″ – 197 lbs – 20 yrs

Players not listed are simply draft prospects that could be drafted, but don’t project clearly into any of these tiers.

If you are looking for a specific player, check out the Basketball Insiders Top 100 Prospects list, this listing is updated weekly.

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NBA Daily: Darius Adams, Around The World In Seven Years

CBA superstar Darius Adams talks to Basketball Insiders about dominating in China, playing with Andray Blatche and trying to prove himself.

Ben Nadeau

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Darius Adams is just like every other professional basketball player.

Every year, he works hard, tries to improve and be the best teammate possible. One day, Adams would like to earn his first-ever NBA contract, but after seven long years, he’s always fallen just short. Adams is just like you and me too — forever chasing his dreams even when the outlook is at its bleakest. But Adams’ worldwide journey has taken him from Indianapolis to China and nearly everywhere in between.

Now with a chunk of money saved up, Adams is ready to bet on himself and finally make this at-home ambition come true. Ahead lies a summer of grueling workouts and undetermined futures, but eventually, you learn to stop betting against Adams. From Los Prados to Laboral Kutxa Baskonia, Adams has made a habit of proving the naysayers wrong. As if dropping 38 points per game in China wasn’t difficult enough — Adams still must undergo his toughest challenge yet: Changing the mind of an NBA front office.

But before you can know where Adams is going, it’s just as important to understand where he’s been.

*****

Darius Adams got a late start to basketball. He never played AAU, the so-called holy grail for teenage prospects, and told me that he learned the game by watching streetball in Decatur, Illinois. So by the time he fell in love with basketball, Adams was forced to take alternate routes to the top. He spent two years in the NJCAA with Lincoln College, a small, private liberal arts school approximately 33 miles away from home. During that second season, Adams averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.2 steals per game on 44 percent shooting from the floor — but it wasn’t enough to make the jump to a Division-I school.

After transferring to the University of Indianapolis, Adams continued to improve in each successive campaign. As a senior, he topped out with a 41-point effort against Illinois at Springfield and tallied 23.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Nevertheless, Adams still went undrafted in 2011, officially setting off a globe-spanning adventure that would make Phileas Fogg blush.

From China to Ukraine, Adams has played in seven different countries in as many years, also adding stops in Venezuela, Dominican Republic, France, Germany and Spain along the way. Adams may have turned 29 years-old this week, but he’s never considered giving up his dreams of playing in the NBA.

“That’s the goal, that’s always been my motivation,” Adams told Basketball Insiders. “I just played my hardest and kept progressing, that was my thing — I didn’t want to be content with: ‘OK, you’re playing pro.’ I want to play at the highest level, I feel like I have the talent to play at the highest level.

“At the end of the day, I just need that opportunity.”

Opportunity is a word that has come to define Adams in many ways.

Beyond that, it’s something that has constantly eluded him, even as he began winning in bigger and better leagues. Despite all his international successes, including a EuroLeague Final Four appearance and a CBA championship, Adams has been unable to turn that into an NBA contract. As far as he can tell, it’s a matter of both perception and timing.

The perception of overseas athletes, particularly those that compete in China, has always been a hot-button issue. For as long as Americans have played in the CBA, there’s an unspoken expectation that they should dominate. Generalizations abound, if you’re from the United States and not dominating in China, there’s a low chance of earning an NBA deal. But sometimes, even topping the CBA charts still isn’t enough. This season, Adams averaged a league-leading 38.7 points and added 8.4 assists (2nd-best), 6.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals (3rd-best) per contest for good measure. On one hand, there’s the stat-padding, empty type of scoring and then there’s this: Absolute annihilation.

But those misconceptions about Chinese basketball often remain an unforgiving roadblock for many. Heck, even Adams had them before he signed with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers two years ago.

“It’s different, my perception was that there would be a lot of short guys that couldn’t play,” Adams said. “Actually, I was probably one of the shortest guys out there, as far as basketball players, and they got skills. They don’t get tired and they’re going to guard you tough, maybe they’re not as skilled as [Americans] are — but they got heart.

“I thought it was going to be easy, but they impressed me.”

And although Adams experienced his fallacies in real-time, he’s still waiting for the rest of the NBA to catch up.

Of course, Adams wasn’t the only American to tear up the CBA this season. Three other Americans, Brandon Jennings, Jonathan Gibson and MarShon Brooks, earned NBA deals this month. That trio of players all put up gaudy statistical lines as well, but none nearly as high as Adams’. Then there’s the case of Stephon Marbury, a former NBA All-Star that moved to China back in 2010, transforming his fringe-status career into a rejuvenated international icon. Marbury’s off-the-court philanthropy and three CBA championships speak for themselves, but Adams is often left wondering why it can’t work the other way around.

“You start questioning yourself, like: ‘What’s the reason why you’re not getting this opportunity?’” Adams told Basketball Insiders. “Some of the teams [I’ve worked out for] come back and say, ‘Well, he hasn’t had NBA experience.’ But when am I going to get my NBA experience if I never get my chance?”

*****

The other frustrating factor for players like Adams to navigate is timing — and as he put it, timing is everything.

To his credit, Adams has never shied away from a challenge or attempted to outmaneuver anybody on this long-winding journey. When he goes to workouts, Adams tells franchises that he’d be more than happy to go against their top guys — however, whenever, or whatever it takes. He’s impressed during private workouts before, but his most recent chance came just as Adams was getting ready to fly back to China for another season. Timing, again, had failed him.

Between workouts too late in the offseason or contracts that needed to be honored, the timing just hasn’t quite worked out for Adams. And it’s not for a lack of trying either — Adams has played two years of summer league (one with the Nets, one with the Mavericks), initially tried his hand at the D-League in 2011 and spends every offseason carefully deciding where to go next.

But when he made the all-important choice to jump from Spain to China in 2016, it wasn’t without a plan.

“Honestly, when I left Spain, I was nervous to go to China because the fans were like, ‘You’re gonna hurt your career, basketball is not as good [there] as it is in Europe,’” Adams said. “So I had that in the back in my mind. Me and my agent had a plan that I’d go to China — the CBA season is way shorter than the European leagues — and then I’d come back in six, seven months and hopefully get on a roster before the end of the season.”

It’s difficult to measure the merits of a big-time scorer overseas, particularly so in China, but Adams has now undoubtedly smashed through his ceiling. For a kid that once started out at a tiny college in Illinois, Adams followed up his Finals MVP-winning campaign in 2016-17 by nearly averaging a 40-point double-double this year. And although he challenged himself to diversify his game between those back-to-back Chinese seasons, he never once thought he would do… well, that.

“I didn’t go into the season wanting to be the leading scorer, I just wanted to win games and another championship,” Adams said. “We had a lot of adversity this season because my teammate, Andray Blatche, got injured early and the offensive role changed to me. Going against double-teams, triple-teams, that was the challenging part, because I knew my team needed me. Dealing with the adversity, it was challenging — but if you put me up to the test, I’m always going to prove myself.”

Although Andray Blatche isn’t a name heard often these days, he’s certainly well-remembered for his time in the NBA. Over his nine-year career, Blatche played for the Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets before heading overseas to China in 2014. While he, too, was part of the winning squad that brought the Flying Tigers their first-ever championship in 2017, Adams has also used the 6-foot-11 power forward like a soundboard. Frequently peppering him with questions about life in the NBA, Adams has nothing but adoration for Blatche, whom he now considers a close friend.

“I asked him what it was like to play with DWill, KG, how were the locker rooms, what were the practices like — but he also helped me see different things on the court,” Adams told Basketball Insiders. “Or, like, OK, I might be frustrated and in a bad place, he’d be like, ‘OK, D, you gotta let it go, you’re the leader of the team’ and things like that. Whenever I was down, he was there — he helped me out with being in China, adjusting to the food, where to go, he treated me like a little brother, actually.”

In order to make that second season in China count, Adams decided to focus on his untapped playmaking side, increasing his assist tally from 5.9 to that aforementioned 8.4 per game. For a while, he even thought that might’ve been why he hadn’t earned a 10-day contract yet, so into the grinder it went. Additionally, Adams dared himself to become a locker room leader, the kind of vocal, lead-by-example veteran that any franchise would value.

If the jaw-dropping statistics weren’t going to pave his path to the NBA, Adams was convinced he could find another way to grab front office attention.

“Right now, I’m already developed and can help [teams] win,” Adams said. “I haven’t reached my peak, I can still learn new things and keep progressing the same way. I’m already starting higher in the learning curve [than most young players] — but I’m also a good leader. I can be a scorer, I can be a defensive guy, I got all those qualities — I’m not just a one-dimensional player, I can help.”

*****

But as his season drew to a close in March (the sixth-seeded Flying Tigers were knocked out in the quarterfinals) Adams was, once again, without an NBA contract. In what Adams is now deeming one of the most important summers of his life, he’s going all-in on himself. Previously, Adams couldn’t ignore those lucrative million-dollar-plus deals, he had a family to look out for, after all. To him, it was a risk that he couldn’t take until this very moment. Sure, he could hit the G-League again — although he tried out for two teams, the Iowa Energy and Canton Charge, after going undrafted and was not selected — but there’s little money in that method.

Granted, Adams has always been motivated and hungry, but he’s got an extra push this time around.

“I’m going to all these different countries, I’m playing in their country — so why can’t play in my country?” Adams told Basketball Insiders. “If I’m one of the top players, how come I can’t get an opportunity in my country? Staying home, so my family can see me. My family has never seen me play overseas, only videos. You see all these other stories, like the guy that just played for the Lakers [Andre Ingram] — it took him ten years! It shows you to just never give up — all you need is an opportunity.

“I always tell my mom, my family, my kids that this year is gonna be the year. I’m gonna get my opportunity and I’mma be playing at home — daddy’s gonna be playing at home.”

Adams has always been a late bloomer — he’s forever the product of a once-raw teenager with no AAU experience. He’ll always be the barely 6-foot point guard that jumped into the NCJAA, quickly validated himself and then excelled in Division-II as well. But if you’re looking for a reason to disparage Adams’ hopes and dreams, you need not look further than this. How could somebody with those glaring blemishes ever play at the NBA level and against the best the sport has to offer?

Lest you forget, however, Adams is also the guy that will never stop fighting or believing in himself. Adams is the one that averaged 18 points in Ukraine and Germany and didn’t settle. The higher he climbed, the better he got. When he aced the test in France, he went to Spain and then got all of this. When Adams needed to adapt and change his game depending on the surrounding roster or culture — he did that too. But most importantly, Adams is tired of playing from behind and tired of missing his young family’s most key moments.

And now, with a whole offseason ahead of him, Adams is ready to do something about it once and for all.

“I’m staying prepared for whenever they have an opportunity, I’m betting on myself this whole summer and really taking a chance,” Adams said. “This year, I have enough saved up to really bet on myself. So, the goal is to just go to these workouts, get in front of these guys and show ‘em what I can do.

“That’s all I’ve ever needed, I don’t want anybody to just hand over a contract — I want to prove myself. I feel like I can make an impact — if you don’t think so, put me up against your guys and I’ll prove it.”

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NBA Daily: This Might Be the Spurs’ Final Stand

The bizarre Kawhi Leonard situation won’t resolve itself cleanly, which means the Spurs may have to pull the plug, writes Matt John.

Matt John

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“All good things must come to an end.” – Chaucer in 1374

If there is one team that has been the closest to replicating the Boston Celtics’ dynasty from the Bill Russell days, it has been the San Antonio Spurs. Over the past two decades, the Spurs have established a consistent model of winning thanks to Hall of Fame talent, legendary coaching and other-worldly scouting.

The only other team in the entire world of sports that has rivaled the Spurs’ prolonged success in the 21st century has been the New England Patriots. However, much like the Patriots, there have been more and more reports recently of dysfunction behind the scenes, with superstar Kawhi Leonard front and center to all of it. If things really are as bad as they appear to be, then Kawhi’s days as a Spur are numbered, and by the same token, so are the Spurs’ days of contention.

No one knows what exactly is going on with Leonard at the moment. There have been reports that, physically, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year is fully capable of returning to the floor, but he chooses not to. Now, his rehab is expected to sideline him for the entirety of the playoffs. Leonard technically isn’t doing anything against the rules, but his actions have made both his team and the league take notice.

Leonard and the Spurs could hypothetically reconcile and put this all behind them, but given all that’s happened throughout the course of the season, that ship seems to have sailed a long time ago. Through the duration of the season, Kawhi’s teammates have called him out, his coach has been steadfastly candid when asked about what’s going on, and now, players around the league are already predicting who his next team will be.

This all spells out a potentially ugly divorce between the Spurs and their franchise player.

So, the Spurs’ obvious next move would be to trade Kawhi for as much value as they can get this off-season. Unfortunately, given the circumstances, the Spurs won’t be able to acquire nearly as much value for Kawhi now as they could have in years’ past. It is true that when Leonard is 100 percent healthy, he is one of the league’s best players. But this bizarre situation, along with his player option after next season, has demolished his trade value.

These days, teams don’t give up valuable assets for star players if there’s a risk that said star player could leave the team after only one year. Teams saw what happened to the Lakers after the Dwight Howard trade blew up in their face, and they saw how crippled the Nets became after they gave away the farm for Paul Pierce among other Celtics that they acquired. If a superstar whose contract is potentially expiring goes on the market, teams will lowball in trade discussions for him.

Case in point: last summer, pretty much everyone agreed that the Thunder acquired Paul George for peanuts when they traded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for him. That may have worked out for the best for Indiana, but that was sheer luck because Oladipo’s and Sabonis’ value was much lower than it is now. Kawhi could fetch a half decent player and maybe a late-lottery pick given his reputation, but that would probably not fill the large void that he would leave behind.

It’s for that reason that the Spurs’ reign may be coming to an end. If they trade Kawhi this summer, they’re not going to get equal value for him, which means they won’t be able to remain among the best in the Western Conference. It’s quite a shame, because Leonard’s apparent fall-out with the Spurs has overshadowed one of the better under-the-radar stories in the league: The Spurs’ perseverance.

The fact that the Spurs still made the playoffs in the Western Conference, which required 47 wins this season, is remarkable. Thanks in large part to LaMarcus Aldridge’s rejuvenation, who has averaged his best numbers as a Spur this season by far, and Coach Pop’s brilliance among other reasons, the Spurs have kept the ball rolling without Kawhi. Alas, without him, the team is firmly not in the title discussion, and the Spurs can’t do much about it.

The Spurs could ride it out by keeping the rest of the core together along with what they would bring back for Leonard, but there wouldn’t be much point. Guys as impactful Leonard are not easily replaceable in this league, and the Spurs’ competition in the West will be as strong as ever next season. As unappealing as it might sound, the Spurs may have to just start over.

That wouldn’t necessarily be the worst thing in the world. Aldridge’s phenomenal season has probably skyrocketed his trade value, so the Spurs would get a good haul for him. The Spurs aren’t in a bad salary cap situation either. Besides Pau Gasol, the team doesn’t have any bad contracts. Tony Parker’s deal is up after this season while Rudy Gay and Danny Green have player options, but both are likely to opt-in given the lack of money on the open market this summer. The team even has some intriguing young talent, such as Dejounte Murray and Bryn Forbes. Re-building wouldn’t be the worst option for San Antonio.

With all of that considered, it would still be very disappointing to see such a glorious era end so anticlimactically. Kawhi Leonard was supposed to lead the new era of Spurs basketball, but now it looks like he may be the Spurs’ undoing, which they may have no choice now but to accept.

Many were looking forward to San Antonio’s demise, but for a team that has remained in the title discussion since the days of President Clinton, the Spurs didn’t deserve an ending like this.

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