Danny Ainge may roll the dice for an all-versatile Celtics line-up
Make no mistake. This would be a major gamble for a number of reasons, but Celtics exec Danny Ainge never shies away from a chance to assemble a winner. A Kyrie Irving-for-Kawhi Leonard trade admittedly is fraught with questions about injuries, preferred destinations and team chemistry, but the high risk/high reward outcome could produce an NBA Champion.
If this deal happened, Boston would be looking at a starting line-up of Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kawhi Leonard and Gordon Hayward. Okay, you ask - who is the point guard? Hayward is the answer to the question. If he proves a bit too slow to guard opposing point guards, give Kawhi or Jaylen the task.
A quick look at the injury situation. Both Kyrie and Kawhi came into the NBA in 2011. Both have an injury history with Leonard averaging 66 games/year for the first six seasons and Irving averaging 64 games. The two players can opt out of their contracts after this coming season.
(The Ringer's Kevin) O'Connor proposes that Hayward and Horford play the 1 and 5 respectively, and then the 2-4 positions are made up of Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum in any order at all. Obviously Hayward is your primary ball-handler so he's the 1 on offense, but defensively your switches 1 through 4 are almost seamless. Offensively you've got three guys that can all get their own shot off, a very good spot up shooter and slasher, as well as one of the best pick-and-roll/pop players in the NBA in Horford. Every one of those guys can hit from the outside and they could potentially be a nightmare matchup for some teams that just can't match up with both the size and athleticism.
Admittedly, Kawhi's injury history, particularly the current issue worries me. According to Express.co.uk's George Mills, The Spurs believe the injury is a tendon issue (tendinopathy) while Kawhi thinks it is ossification (hardening or calcification) of the quad muscle. Doing some research of my own, neither problem is particularly encouraging, and not a lot is known about either injury. This could explain some of the fog surrounding the entire saga. If a deal is going to happen, Danny Ainge has some medical detective work to do. Just determining if it is a tendon issue or a muscle problem might be a good start.
Injuries seem to plague the League and players are constantly on the move. Kyrie and Kawhi have both seen their share of injuries and both could leave for other destinations at the end of this upcoming season. Leonard has California roots, but frankly, he doesn't seem like an LA type of guy. He doesn't need the lights and glamour.
Did San Antonio misdiagnose his injury and treat it incorrectly? We just don't know. Would he stick with Boston after his year is up? Another unknown. But come on. The NBA has become a League filled with unknowns. Sometimes, you just have to roll the dice. We have an Ace Riverboat Gambler on our side, and Danny will take the chance if he sees it as a strong run at the Title this season.
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Photo via Edward A. Omelas/San Antonio Express News