Guys, have you seen this? Have you heard about this? Kawhi Leonard, Finals MVP, two time Defensive Player of the Year, two time All Star, four time All-Defense, and top five player in the NBA, is officially up for grabs. He wants out of San Antonio, and the Spurs essentially have zero leverage. And, by saying they won’t trade him to a Western Conference team, there’s really only like three teams with the means to trade for him. As always, one of them is the Celtics.
Would trading for Kawhi be a good idea? Yes, it would be nice to add a top five guy. In a vacuum, if a two-time runner-up for MVP is available in his prime, you pull the trigger a million times out of a million. But we don’t live in a vacuum. There are lots of other variables at play, the biggest being Kawhi’s impending free agency. He can opt out after next season, meaning any deal without a signed extension a massive risk. If you’re okay with renting one of the best players in the league for one year to see what happens, that’s fine, but Kawhi seems pretty dead-set on going to L.A. where he can finally let his “personality” shine. Injuries were obviously a factor, but he just showed he has no qualms in throwing an entire season away. Who’s to say he doesn’t just say he’s still hurt if he gets traded somewhere other than Los Angeles? Or what if he just doesn’t try? It seems preposterous to be talking about Kawhi Leonard, basketball robot, like he’s some petulant child, but that’s what happens when you spend an entire season acting like Dwight Howard when he doesn’t get enough sugar.
But let’s assume he plays 100% and is at least open to re-signing. What would the Spurs actually want from the Celtics? Celtics could have four first round picks next season, including the Kings’, so you would have to assume multiple would be involved. Having lived the lottery-drama life for a few years, now, I think I’d be more than happy giving that up. But the Spurs aren’t some rinky-dink organization, so players would have to be involved, as well. Kyrie Irving is probably the easiest one-for-one trade candidate, but I don’t know if that would really work for either team. It would leave the Celtics without a backup point guard besides Shane Larkin (yes, I know that’s something you can figure out if you acquire Kawhi Leonard), and I’m not sure how well Kyrie would really fit in with the Spurs heavily structured system. Pop has said he’s likely to retire soon. Would he really want to spend the last of his legendary career trying to get an award winning piano soloist to fit in with a symphony? I’m guessing not. Gordon Hayward’s name has been thrown out, too, but I also doubt the validity of that. People will say it would set a bad precedent to trade someone after he played five minutes for your team, but I think players would forget about that if the Celtics wind up winning titles. I really just don’t think the Spurs would want him. The front office has to think past the Pop era. Trading Kawhi for an older, worse version seems like an odd move for a team likely to enter into a rebuilding process. Aside from the various role players that would be added to make the contracts work, that leaves Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier as the most likely Spurs targets. Terry would be the easiest to part with, but who’s to say he won’t be one of the most valuable sixth men in the league next season? Who’s to say Tatum won’t average 18-20 points a game as a 20-year-old? Jaylen took a massive jump from year one to year two. The very player he would be traded for made numerous leaps even when everyone said he was capped out. Why are we just assuming Jaylen can’t do the same? Not to mention both Tatum and Brown are under control for three or four more seasons, as opposed to the likely one year of Kawhi. I know I’m a homer and I know the microwave approach works way more often when it comes to NBA contenders than going low and slow, but this team made it to game 7 of the conference finals and is adding Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Do they really need to shake things up when it’s still unclear what the East landscape will look like in three weeks? Sure, trading for Kawhi immediately establishes you as the top dog in the East, but what about when he leaves and you’re left with no draft picks and young stars? I’m not convinced a lineup of Kyrie-Hayward-Kawhi-Tatum/Brown-Horford beats the Warriors, either.
So, I guess what I’m saying is I’m officially out on a Celtics-Kawhi trade. I don’t want to deal with the headaches that come along with trying to sign a disgruntled star who has a set destination in mind, I don’t want to sell the farm for a rental, and I definitely don’t want to sell the farm when it’s not for a guaranteed championship. So let the Sixers build their SuperTeam. I’m content with going the old fashioned route.