Kawhi trade rumors to Boston will grow, but it won't happen
Having established their treasure chest of assets over the past few years, it seems there isn't a big-name player in the league on the free agent or, more notably, the trade market, who hasn't been on Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics' radar. Beginning almost four years ago now when rumors of Kevin Love leaving Minnesota for Boston skyrocketed as he attended a Red Sox game at Fenway Park in summer 2014 (remember that??), from that point on there has been a laundry list of players the Green have been attached too.
The Kevin Durant summer 2016 sweepstakes, the Jimmy Butler trade rumors all throughout last season (and plugs from Mark Wahlberg), the Paul George trade negotiations last spring with the Indiana Pacers that fell flat ... the list goes on. All while many of these pursuits made by Ainge over the past few years may have come up short, the Celtics were still the biggest winners of this most recent summer though.
Signing the prize of the free-agent market, Gordon Hayward, and making a trade for a superstar talent anyway in Kyrie Irving, the team saw an overhaul which led to new hope from fans that they were now on the brink of contention. Soon enough, rumors we're back abound and reports of Anthony Davis being pursued by Boston began spreading as armchair GM's everywhere (or keyboard GM's) started brainstorming possible trade ideas.
Despite how lovely the thought of Kyrie lobbing up alley-oops to AD wearing green might have sounded, for those of us Celtic fans who like to deal in reality for the most part, we knew it was a pipe dream we we're all wishing up. New Orleans has Davis locked up on a very reasonable contract for another three years after this season and the 23-year old power-forward looks to just be entering his prime now.
The fifth-year Pelican has been on a tear through the month of February in which he's averaged 35.9 points, 12.8 boards, 2.5 steals and 2.4 blocks a game. Even to the craziest of those Celtic armchair-GMs who would love to see him here understand it's less and less likely the former University of Kentucky product will come here as he keeps that performance up and takes New Orleans further and further into playoff contention.
As the rumors of Ainge's pursuit of Davis will die down however, fans will naturally turn to the next flavor of the week. For Celtics fans right now, it looks more and more likely that their next object of desire will be Kawhi Leonard.
Danny Ainge is always on the hunt for stars. Given the reported tension in San Antonio, I examined whether Kawhi Leonard could emerge as a trade target for #Celtics this summer, (if he turns down an extension in SA) https://t.co/4et3Dm0zuh
As noted in a piece by the Boston Sports Journal's Brian Robb, with how the situation in San Antonio is currently playing out, it shouldn't be surprising if the sixth-year Spur eventually found himself in trade rumors. For roughly a month now, there have been all sorts of reports that there may be discord between Leonard and Spurs management about his injury situation.
One report suggested that although the former San Diego State product was cleared to play just in recent weeks, he has yet to make his return to the hardwood yet. And just another report a day ago reported that the team and he (wink wink) had decided he would take his time to return with a potential March reappearance.
Despite the fact that many of these reports and stories have been very vague and left up for interpretation, there's an old saying "where there's smoke, there's fire." Although we may be talking about a professional sports franchise who might even be more of a model of consistency than the New England Patriots, when there are this many reports and even team officials disclosing such information around a subject, something's gotta give.
Regardless of how much truth there is behind the potential departure of Leonard from San Antonio, this will naturally become a hot topic every where and every fan base will start thinking of how their team might angle toward stealing him from Gregg Popovich. But between the league's biggest wealth of assets and maybe the biggest swindler of all GMs, whether they will try to pursue him or not, the Celtics will be considered suitors.
Although in past summers they've seen more geared to make a move, the Green will enter this off-season sitting on more assets than they've had yet. Between the development of players like Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier along with still owning valuable future first-rounders (SAC 19', MEM 19' which becomes unprotected in 21'), the C's still have the type of pieces even outside of their untouchables (Irving and Hayward) that can make for a major blockbuster. However, having the right type of trade chips for a big move doesn't necessarily mean you need to make one.
Considering all facts involved, a trade for Kawhi would NOT be worth it for the Celtics this summer.
Yes, you heard me correctly ... a trade for Kawhi wouldn't be worth it and more importantly, it’s not coming.
As it currently stands, Leonard has just one more year on his deal after next season and is slated to become a free agent in 2019. This will be the first red flag of many that will pop up to Ainge when mulling over any possibilities. Nevermind the absolute haul of assets you would have to send to San Antonio to get Leonard, you might be risking it all just to lose him the next summer to free agency. And that aforementioned haul would be the second qualm Trader Danny would probably have with any deal for Kawhi, simply for how big it’d be.
If the Celtics actually were serious about making a trade for The Claw, almost any offer would start with some combination of Brown, Tatum, and draft picks. This is KAWHI LEONARD we’re talking about and RC Buford is no dummy either. I’d expect the Spurs long-time GM would probably ask for Brown, Tatum, Marcus Smart, the soon-to-be PHI-SAC first-rounder and even more at the least for the face of his franchise. Although most C’s fans would like to dangle Al Horford out there as well and maybe use his contract to match salaries, I have an extremely hard time believing they’d bring a clone of LaMarcus Aldridge, who’s probably even worse, for more money.
So there it is, would you want to part with two budding studs, an all-NBA defender and team-leader, along with future draft capital, aka mortgage the long-term future, for one year (maybe more) of a guy who’s battled injuries the past few years and won’t even play when team doctors okay him to? Realistically ...no.
Nevermind the potential disasters waiting ahead if a trade akin to the one suggested above had happened, who’s to say the Spurs are really gonna end up moving him in the long-run anyway? For all we know, all this injury and back to the court drama could just be grandstanding by Leonard to secure a large payday before entering the last year of his current deal.
Also as former three-point specialist, Mike Miller, noted on ESPN’s The Jump today, “if there’s anyone who will figure this out, it’s Pop and Buford.” And he’s right.
As previously mentioned, this team has been ruling over the NBA for almost the past two decades now and Popovich has a better handle on his team than anybody. Sure, this isn’t your Tim Duncan-Tony Parker-Manu Ginobili cardboard cutout Spurs anymore but with maybe the best coach in the league at the helm, they’re still finding ways to be successful without their best player.
One thing I thought about is that if any suggested issues behind the scenes are true, maybe Kawhi was upset that Kyrie didn’t find himself playing alongside him in San Antonio this past summer instead of in Celtic green. Maybe he wants more help down there as Aldridge might be his best teammate right now. Having won a Finals MVP there though, he should know every decision that is made by their management typically works out for the best.
It will be interesting regardless to see how the situation down in San Antonio plays out and I’m sure some Celtic fans will still be watching closely from afar, but before this thing even gets legs, this is me telling you not to get your hopes up.
Follow Brendan on Twitter for more Celtics/NBA info at @brendan_ronan_
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