The Celtics are fully engaged with the Spurs on a deal for Kawhi Leonard, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. The NBA’s written record followed up that report with a tweet about how the Celtics are being “extremely cautious” in their pursuit of the star forward.
Good. At this point, with Leonard reportedly indicating he’ll sign with the Lakers in free agency next year, there’s no reason why the Celtics would surrender any significant assets for him. Danny Ainge can let the leverage come to him.
The Spurs say they’re intent on keeping Leonard. At the NBA Draft last week, general manager R.C. Buford said he would prefer to see the two-time All-Star remain in San Antonio. Gregg Popovich also met with Leonard, in an apparent attempt to mend the fractured relationship. Leonard missed all but nine games last season with a quad injury and spent most of his time away from the team.
While the Spurs may be content waiting it out with Leonard, the Lakers don’t have that kind of time. ESPN reports the Lakers believe landing LeBron James hinges on whether they get Leonard. James says he doesn’t want a drawn-out free agency process, which means the Lakers have to get moving on Leonard, like, now.
The Spurs know this, which is probably why they initially rebuffed the Lakers. The two sides have recently reopened trade discussions, per ESPN.
Magic Johnson is hinging his reputation on bringing two superstars to LA over the next two summers. He said this week he would resign if he fails to accomplish that goal. With those bombastic words in mind, the Spurs could ask for some of the Lakers’ first-round picks –– such as Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram Josh Hart. Future first-round selections and restricted free agent Julius Randle could be included in a package, too.
That would be a lot for the Lakers to give up, but they learned their lesson about being conservative last year. They didn’t meet the Pacers’ desired asking price for Paul George, because George had indicated he wanted to sign with the Lakers in free agency. Well, now free agency is almost here, and George is reportedly considering a return to the Thunder.
At 34 years old, it’s unlikely LeBron would willingly sign up for a bridge year. Since the Lakers reportedly view James and Leonard as a package, they could be willing to surrender their long-term future for immediate championship contention.
The Celtics, of course, are in a different spot. They will likely be the favorites in the Eastern Conference next season, even in the off-chance that James stays in Cleveland. That means there’s no reason for Ainge to offer Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward, never mind Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown.
Still, the Celtics may have a shot for Leonard, because the Spurs would reportedly prefer to trade him to an Eastern Conference team. Celtics cap expert Ryan Bernardoni suggests offering Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris, Robert Williams, and either the Clippers’ 2019 first-round pick or the Celtics’ own selection, along with other spare parts.
That would make the Spurs, who qualified for the playoffs as the No. 7 seed without Leonard, instantly better. Rozier averaged 16-5-5 in the playoffs last season, and is only 24 years old. Plus, Williams and a 2019 first-round pick gives the Spurs some future value, too.
Best of all, the Celtics wouldn’t be sacrificing their future. If Marcus Smart re-signs, then Rozier almost certainly would go, anyway. Plus, they would still own the Kings’ 2019 top1 protected first-round pick.
So even if Leonard didn’t re-sign with the Celtics, he would be a nice luxury for next season. But that’s what he is –– a luxury. The Lakers think they need him; the Celtics know they don’t.
Full article @ Celtics have no reason to trade Tatum or Brown for Kawhi Leonard
Source: GreenStreet Blog