What exactly does Kawhi Leonard want?
Everyone seems to think they know. They tell us he wants to play in Los Angeles. They remind us that he quit on his team in San Antonio, that he doesn’t want to play for the Spurs anymore.
They all know him so well, we might as well just listen to them and accept it as fact.
So that’s it then. Leonard is going to LA. Whether it’s the Lakers or the Clippers, whether he gets traded this summer or opts out next summer and signs as a free agent, Leonard is LA-bound. Let’s move on, right?
Not so fast.
With the NBA Draft this week, trade rumors are surely going to heat up. And Leonard’s name will be smack dab in the middle of them. Why? Because he’s obviously unhappy in San Antonio. But also because he might not end up in LA like everyone suggests.
I mean, honestly, there are probably a lot of NBA players who want to play in LA. Doesn’t mean they ever end up there. And if Leonard doesn’t end up in LA, it’s because somebody swooped in and stole his heart.
I want that somebody to be Danny Ainge.
The Boston Celtics president of basketball operations is on the prowl right now. Don’t tell me he’s not.
Last summer, he threw all loyalty out the window because he had his eye on the ultimate prize: an NBA Championship. This summer, I expect his focus to be on the same prize.
Does that mean he’ll seal the deal on another blockbuster trade? I don’t see why he’d rule it out, especially given some of the names that are currently available, like Leonard.
According to reports, Ainge tried to trade for Leonard before the trade deadline, so it wouldn’t be insane to suggest he’d have interest in Leonard again, right at this very moment.
Leonard could be traded before Thursday night’s draft if the Spurs are looking for a top pick this year in return. But let’s say he’s not traded before the draft. The Celtics would be in prime position to make that move after Thursday night, if they really wanted to.
The C’s could offer San Antonio one of their future picks from the 76ers/Kings, Clippers, or Grizzlies. Or they could do a straight up star-for-star swap, sending Kyrie Irving to San Antonio, and bringing Leonard to Boston.
Both Irving and Leonard each have one year left on their contract with a player option for the following year. And I already loaded up the Trade Machine. The money works. Trade successful.
That’s only if Irving hasn’t committed to the Celtics long-term, behind the scenes. As I told you last week, if Ainge has any doubts about Irving’s long-term plans, then he needs to be the aggressor right now, while he still has the leverage.
San Antonio was on Irving’s original list that he gave to the Cavaliers last offseason when he demanded a trade.
Boston doesn’t look to be on any trade list that Leonard has provided. But if Ainge thinks Irving is going to walk next summer, what’s the difference?
Well, there is one: LeBron James.
Leonard and James continue to be linked, as James reportedly has his eye on where Leonard ends up. It’s also been reported that James will have a conversation with the Celtics — and several other teams — this summer.
If the Celtics weren’t already an attractive basketball destination for James, then they certainly would be if Leonard was traded to Boston and Irving was elsewhere.
Acquiring Leonard and James is the type of offseason you’d expect to have in your NBA2K franchise mode. I get that. But if the two continue to be linked, the Celtics do have the assets to get nuts and pull it off.
Either way, Leonard’s presence in Boston alone would undoubtedly make the Celtics the biggest threat to Golden State.
And I have a feeling Leonard would want to be part of that.
Listen to “The Danny Picard Show” at dannypicard.com. Follow him on Twitter @DannyPicard.