By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Move over, LeBron James. It appears as though Kawhi Leonard is about to dominate the NBA news cycle.
With Friday’s news that Leonard wants out of San Antonio came a flurry of rumors and speculation and theoretical trade proposals. ESPN’s Trade Machine might need to be taken down for maintenance. That thing has been working overtime.
And while Leonard reportedly has his eyes set on the Lakers or Clippers as an ideal destination, it must be remembered that the Spurs are a rather intelligent operation. The organization is more likely to accept the best possible deal than it is to just grant Leonard’s wishes. So it remains possible that some other teams have a chance at landing a potential franchise-altering player.
(The word “potential” gets thrown into that sentence only because Leonard just missed almost an entire year due to a somewhat mysterious injury, and because he’s at odds with the Spurs, enough to demand a trade. His on-court accomplishments through age 26 are top-notch, obviously.)
Included in that mix would presumably be the Boston Celtics. As was reported earlier this week by Adrian Wojnarowski, the Celtics made an offer to acquire Leonard back in February. Though the Celtics’ situation has changed some since then, one might reasonably assume that Danny Ainge remains interested.
And if the Celtics really make a run at Leonard, Wojnarowski has shared what a likely package for the Spurs’ star would look like:
–No. 27 overall pick in 2018 draft
–Kings’ first-round pick in 2019 (No. 1 overall protected)
Woj’s tweet did afford for some wiggle room — like, say, perhaps Jayson Tatum instead of Brown. But Tatum’s ceiling appears to be too high for the Celtics to really want to consider trading him after one year. The Celtics would also have to add to the deal in order to match Leonard’s salary. But, in this scenario, parting with Brown and the Kings’ pick is what would obviously hurt the most.
It is, of course, just speculation. Certainly in the past, some disgruntled players who demand trades have gotten much less in return than initially anticipated. That should be the case with Leonard, who can opt out of his contract after next season.
But assuming the suitors are plentiful, and assuming the asking price is high, Ainge faces a tough decision. That’s not something that’s ever scared him before, but with many fans in Boston hopeful to see what Brown and Tatum can do in a full season with Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, the idea of breaking it up for a great player with some question marks is far from a sure thing.
In any event, it ought to be an interesting week as the Leonard news is sure to dominate the conversation in a number of NBA markets around the country.