The news that Paul George will re-sign with the Thunder rattled the NBA landscape Sunday, the first official day of NBA free agency, as the pressure is firmly on the Lakers to complete a Kawhi Leonard trade quickly. Sitting back patiently is Celtics boss Danny Ainge, who will very much have a hand in how all of this shakes out. Here is the latest on NBA Trade Rumors: Celtics Kawhi - Lakers and where he could be headed.
The Lakers need to be able to prove to LeBron James that he will have help in Los Angeles. The ideal scenario for the Lakers was that they could trade for Kawhi, sign George, and then sign LeBron. Or if Kawhi was traded elsewhere, George would have been a strong backup plan as the 1A sidekick to LeBron.
It has become clear, however, that the Spurs do not want to help out the Lakers and LeBron, so much so that they may be willing to take less – much less - from another team (a la what the Pacers’ Kevin Pritchard did last year with George) in a trade for Kawhi.
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The Celtics could conceivably complete a trade for Kawhi without having to relinquish either Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. It has been widely reported over the past few days that neither Tatum or Brown is on the table.
The Celtics would have to entice the Spurs with first round draft picks – and lots of them. In fact, the Celtics would have to give up their entire treasure trove of future picks in order to complete a Kawhi trade that doesn’t include one of their two young studs. The Kings pick, and Memphis pick would be starting points – and Boston would have to relinquish its own future firsts. As far as outgoing players, the Celtics would have to ship out Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris, Semi Ojeleye – and they would likely have to sign and trade restricted free agent Marcus Smart. If Smart does not sign an offer sheet with an outside team in the coming days, the Celtics are eligible to use him in a sign-and-trade. A sign and trade contract in this circumstance would need to be for at least three seasons with the first year guaranteed.
Smart would certainly be a Gregg Popovich-type player, so the Spurs may be interested in making that type of move.
NBA Trade Rumors: Celtics Kawhi - Lakers
Leonard seems open to a move to the Celtics, based on a report by Sports Illustrated’s Jake Fischer.
“While Leonard’s camp has made it clear the former Defensive Player of the Year prefers Los Angeles and the Lakers, a source close to the situation says the Southern California native is open to playing in other major markets,” Fischer wrote. “Leonard’s suboptimal contract extension discussions with Jordan Brand in March signaled the importance of playing in a larger market, and the Spurs star would be open to playing in Boston and New York, the source said.”