It’s no secret that the Boston Celtics and San Antonio have talked about a trade to send Kawhi Leonard to Boston.
Now, the success of those talks is really a matter of your source. Those in Boston tend to believe that the talks have gone nowhere and that the Celtics aren’t interested in offering much of substance for Leonard, while a few national pundits have reported of ‘intensifying’ talks between the Spurs and Celtics, with the C’s and Los Angeles Lakers dueling for Leonard.
But if this latest report is even close to true, it’s not hard to see why Celtics president Danny Ainge has an extremely limited interest in negotiating with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford.
“San Antonio has informed teams its preferred target in any Leonard trade is the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, sources say,” Sports Illustrated’s Jake Fischer reported on Thursday. “Teams have noted this is likely a negotiating tactic, and it’s widely believed in league circles Boston is more likely to propose a deal centered around Kyrie Irving and future picks. But based on previous behavior, the Celtics are unlikely to overpay for Leonard.”
Yeah, parting with Tatum? That’ll be the hardest of passes from Ainge and the Celtics.
But this goes beyond the Celtics finding an obvious franchise piece in the 20-year-old Tatum.
Not only is Leonard coming off a year in which he played just nine games due to a lingering quad injury, but he’s a year away from opting out of his current contract and hitting the open market. That latter point is incredibly important — or detrimental to Leonard’s trade value, at the very least — as Leonard has expressed an interest in playing in his hometown of Los Angeles.
There are simply too many red flags for the Celtics to commit real assets — be it Tatum or Jaylen Brown, or the first-round picks from the Kings and Grizzlies that the Celtics still possess — on what could very well be a one-year rental.
Those uncertainties are exactly why Irving, who possesses similar options to Leonard in 2019, would be on the table.
But from the sound of it, it doesn’t even sound like that would happen at this point.