The Spurs are in a staring contest with potential suitors for Kawhi Leonard, and it doesn’t appear anyone is ready to blink.
Ever since the former NBA Finals MVP made it clear he wants to leave San Antonio, teams like the Lakers, Celtics and 76ers have all inquired about a possible trade. Recent reports indicate Leonard prefers to head to Los Angeles, and that’s why the Spurs don’t have a ton of leverage at the moment. The Lakers are banking on adding Leonard next summer as a free agent, and the Celtics and 76ers won’t give away important pieces of their cores for a one-year rental.
Boston and Philadelphia have gone so far as to make their top players completely “off limits,” according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who offered the latest details on Leonard’s situation during an appearance on “SportsCenter.”
“[Joel] Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz — they’re off limits,” Wojnarowski said. “Boston’s really got their top five players off limits. Boston’s more willing to do a deal that’s (draft) pick-heavy.
“But the Spurs want good players back. They don’t want to rebuild. They want picks, and they want guys who can help them stay in the playoffs.”
Wojnarowski didn’t specify which players Boston places in its top-five category, but that group likely includes Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. The Celtics do hold multiple attractive picks for next year’s draft, including first-round selections from the Kings (top-one protected), Grizzlies (top-eight protected) and Clippers (top-14 protected) as well as their own first-rounder. A pick-heavy trade makes sense from Boston’s perspective.
It’s not surprising to see the Sixers remove Embiid and Simmons from the equation, but if they want to acquire Leonard, they might have to include Fultz in any package. A combination of Dario Saric, Robert Covington and draft picks simply won’t get it done.
As for the Lakers, Wojnarowski reports they have not made an “overwhelming offer” for Leonard. Lakers president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka are well aware of Leonard’s desires, and they realize there’s no reason to lose talented players when they can add Leonard in free agency after the 2018-19 season.
We’ll see if the Celtics or Sixers blink before that happens.