The Boston Celtics are one of the NBA teams who have expressed interest in acquiring Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs. They currently have a plethora of trade assets that can convince the Spurs to make a deal. In most NBA trade rumors linking Celtics to Leonard, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown emerged as the likely trade piece Boston will send to San Antonio.
Sacrificing either Brown or Tatum will give the Celtics a deadly combination of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Kawhi Leonard, and Al Horford. If all of their superstars stay healthy next season, the Celtics will become the top favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in NBA Finals even if LeBron James stay in the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN, it makes more sense for the Celtics to use Irving or Hayward as the “centerpiece” of any trade involving Leonard to maintain the present-future balance of the team.
“Swapping Brown (and lots of other stuff) for Leonard would leave Boston with four players earning fat max contracts, including three — Horford, Irving and Leonard — who can negotiate fatter ones in 2019. If four such deals prove too much to bear, Boston might have to sell low on one. Meanwhile, Brown isn’t eligible for a new deal until 2020-21, and his maximum salary starts at least $5-6 million below those of Hayward and Irving.”
By trading either Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward for Kawhi Leonard, the Celtics will be retaining the young core that helped them reach the Eastern Conference Finals last season while saving multiple first-round picks. Having four NBA superstars on their roster will undeniably make the Celtics an immediate threat to the reigning NBA champions, Golden State Warriors, but being buried deep in luxury tax hell could prevent them from building a dynasty.
As Lowe noted, the Celtics, as currently constructed, are set up to contend for at least 10 years. The “Big Three” of Irving/Hayward, Leonard, and Horford will lead the Celtics in the next couple of years, while Tatum, Brown, and Terry Rozier are developing into legitimate superstars. However, before engaging in any trade discussion with the Spurs, the Celtics should get a commitment from Leonard and make sure that he is 100 percent recovered from injury.
The Spurs will surely love the idea of a superstar-for-superstar trade. Their continuous communication with Leonard showed that the Spurs have no interest in undergoing a full-scale rebuild. Trading their disgruntled superstar for Irving or Hayward could be their best option than losing him in the summer of 2019 without getting anything in return.