Celtics Like Kawhi, but Hurdles Persist
By Steve Bulpett
BOSTON -- If San Antonio does, indeed, make Kawhi Leonard available in trade, it’s fair to assume the Celtics would have interest in being involved in those talks. But there would be a few rivers to cross even then before the C’s could get serious.
And it should tell you something right off the bat that, according to an agent, the Celtics weren’t aware of reports that Leonard wants to leave the Spurs until hours after the news hit the internet.
While two general managers expressed the belief that the star forward will eventually work things out with San Antonio and be there long term, most reports have Leonard wanting to move home to the Lakers.
That wouldn’t preclude the Celtics from getting involved with San Antonio in talks, but it is an issue, in that Leonard can opt out and become a free agent after the 2018-19 season. As was the case when the Celts got Kevin Garnett in 2007, there would have to be some confidence this would be more than a one-year rental.
There is also the medical matter to consider. Leonard played just nine games in 2017-18 because of a quad injury, and while some speculated as to how much his strained relationship with the Spurs factored into his absence, his health both now and as a possible effect on the more long-term future would have to be addressed.
Lastly, there is the cost. As much value as a healthy Leonard would have, there is a limit to what the Celtics or any franchise would give up to get him.
The Celts are well stocked with young players and future draft assets (the Sacramento and Memphis picks, in particular), and that would make them an attractive trading partner. But how much is proper value, especially if Leonard’s health and willingness to stay a Celtic are in question.
Look for Danny Ainge to get these questions answered as best he can should the Spurs be willing to talk business.
The Celtics did make an inquiry on Leonard prior to February’s trade deadline, but, according to sources, that was more of a due diligence call that never got to a back-and-forth exchange of offers.