The NBA offseason is about to begin, which means the season of outlandish, complicated trade rumors involving NBA stars is nearly upon us. Some of the permutations of star players, young prospects, and draft picks may even come to pass.
But that doesn’t mean we won’t be hearing about rumored near-deals that didn’t happen in the past. And with Kawhi Leonard two wins away from an NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors, a new report revisits one of last year’s trade frenzies from the time that Leonard asked for a trade from his previous team, the San Antonio Spurs.
Per Pro Basketball Talk, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated said on a Stitcher podcast this week that when the Spurs had Leonard on the trading block last summer, the Celtics had a chance to acquire him for a package centered around forward Jaylen Brown and guard Marcus Smart. Smart was a free agent at the time and ended up re-signing, so the trade would have been a sign-and-trade.
Mannix said he had heard from sources in both organizations about the talks and noted some regret that the trade did not happen.
“I do know that there’s some regret from some people within the Celtics organization about not pulling the trigger.”
Leonard made his trade request in June of 2018 after a disagreement with Spurs management over the handling of an injury the season before. He was rumored to be interested in a move to one of the two Los Angeles teams, more likely the Lakers. Yet, a Hoops Habit piece last June listed the Celtics as the most likely destination for Leonard.
Report: Celtics could have traded Jaylen Brown to Spurs as centerpiece for Kawhi Leonard https://t.co/7bnnH4ne8n
— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) June 7, 2019
Not included on that list was Toronto, who ended up acquiring Leonard in July along with Danny Green in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Pöltl and a first-round draft pick. The trade has been a successful one, as Leonard not only stayed healthy all season but led the Raptors through the most successful playoff run in franchise history, one that could lead to their first championship ever. Boston, on the other hand, had a subpar year and lost in the second round of the playoffs to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Leonard is a free agent this offseason, with most NBA observers expecting him to either stay in Toronto or head to Los Angeles to sign with the Lakers or Clippers; the Celtics are not thought to have the salary cap space to sign a star from another team like Leonard.