The continuous absence of Kawhi Leonard due to injury is worsening the drama in San Antonio, and rumors are currently circulating that the All-Star forward and the Spurs are parting ways this summer. In an appearance on Outside the Lines, Brian Windhorst of ESPN revealed that several NBA teams plan to call the Spurs and inquire about Leonard’s availability via trade (h/t RealGM). ESPN’s Zach Lowe echoed Windhorst’s report and added the deal involving the disgruntled superstar will likely happen on or before the 2018 NBA draft.
According to Joshua Schrock of NESN, the Boston Celtics are one of the teams who could express interest in trading for Kawhi Leonard in the upcoming offseason. Schrock believes Celtics GM Danny Ainge “would be foolish” not to trade for Leonard if the Spurs make him available on the market. After acquiring Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics put themselves in a strong position to dominate the Eastern Conference in the years to come.
However, some people still have a doubt if they can beat the Golden State Warriors or the Houston Rockets in a best-of-seven series. This is the major reason why pursuing Leonard makes a lot of sense. When healthy, the 26-year-old small forward proves to be a reliable contributor on the offensive end and is currently one of the best one-on-one defenders in the NBA.
After dealing with the Cleveland Cavaliers for Irving, the Celtics still have enough assets to make another blockbuster trade. As Schrock noted, Boston will be needing to give up either Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum and multiple first-round picks to convince the Spurs to trade Kawhi Leonard.
“While parting with potential stars like Brown and Tatum certainly isn’t appealing, getting a top-five NBA player in return is well worth the price. Brown and Tatum have loads of potential, but it’s unlikely that either of them will be as good as Leonard in their prime. And even if one of them eclipses Leonard’s peak, the Celtics’ other stars will be on their last leg when the ascension is realized.”
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have shown impressive performance in the ongoing 2017-18 NBA season, proving their capability to help the Celtics return to the NBA Finals. However, in order to beat powerhouse teams like the Warriors and the Rockets in best-of-seven series, the Celtics undeniably need help from a more experienced superstar like Kawhi Leonard. But first, before pulling the trigger, Boston should get an assurance that Leonard is willing to stay with the team long-term. The All-Star forward has a player option in his contract that he could use to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019.