“You heard it here first: Kawhi to Boston.”
The other day, Shaquille O’Neal delivered his thoughts about the Kawhi Leonard/San Antonio Spurs standoff.
My first thought was, “How can the Celtics get this man to Boston without giving up Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum?”
Then I cut to reality and realized there’s simply no way the Spurs would ever make that trade without getting back at least one of the two young stars. Boston could offer Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris, the Sacramento Kings pick, and the deed to TD Garden and the Spurs would never speak to them again.
Throw Brown or Tatum into that deal? We might have something. The Celtics can even keep the deed.
As much as I love the guy, Jaylen Brown would be my choice if I had to trade one of the two. He is going to be a great player, but he’s much more in the Kawhi-type mold than Tatum is. It’s becoming clear that Jayson Tatum can average 25-plus points per game in this league one day. His offensive arsenal is that incredible.
Jayson Tatum is just becoming the type of player you cannot trade, no matter the deal.
“If we had to trade Jayson Tatum for Kawhi Leonard, I’m leaving town.”
— Tommy Heinsohn, Celtics legend
— Ben Rohrbach (@brohrbach) April 4, 2018
Jayson Tatum?? pic.twitter.com/SiaE0tdAWb
— NBA Inside Stuff (@NBAInside_Stuff) April 9, 2018
But would the Spurs do that?
Kawhi’s season has been marred by injuries and question marks. His quad has been an issue for more than himself. Tony Parker came out and subtly bashed Leonard, stating that his own calf injury was “100 times worse.” Whether Leonard is able to play or not, he currently isn’t on the floor. Kawhi seems to have other plans, and now the Spurs might as well.
When healthy, Leonard is one of the very best players in the league. He averaged 25.5 points last season and gave the Warriors fits in the playoffs before he got injured. Kawhi is the best perimeter defender in the league and would give the Celtics a third bonafide superstar.
In case you forgot how good Leonard is, here’s a fresh reminder.
Rozier would probably start in San Antonio, which could move Dejounte Murray to the 2 and play Brown at the 3. Rozier has emerged this season in wake of the Kyrie Irving injury. He will start for an NBA-team in the very near future, and could evolve into one of the better point guards in the league.
Rozier under Gregg Popovich would be a great fit. Terry has an uber-high motor and plays hard on both sides of the ball. Whether he takes five shots or 15 shots, Rozier can impact a game. Add in his high basketball IQ and freakish athleticism and it’s not hard to see why he would thrive in San Antonio.
Brown is on his way to stardom. The second-year player made massive leaps this season and could be a potential franchise player in San Antonio. His combination of strength and athleticism is not often found in this league. If that shot stays consistent and evolves, Brown will be quite the player. Popovich would be a perfect mentor to Brown and Rozier.
Morris has proven to be a really solid scoring option, and that Sacramento pick could very well be top five next season.
Would that be enough to bring the superstar to Boston? I really hope so.
Imagine the Celtics taking the parquet next season with Irving, Gordon Hayward, Leonard, Tatum and Al Horford. That’s a championship-caliber starting lineup.
Irving would remain the best scorer and Horford would be the glue to keep them all together, but the three in the middle could produce matchup nightmares. Leonard is exactly what Jaylen Brown wants to be in three to five years; an athletic two-way superstar that teams pay hundreds of millions for. Hayward would be the third scoring option, which seems weird, but that’s a luxury the Celtics could afford. Finally, Tatum could keep his starting spot and learn different skills from the other four on the floor. There simply would not be a better starting five in the league.
So, is Leonard worth the king’s ransom? Not to me if it includes both Tatum and Brown. But a package built around Brown and Rozier? That is something I’d sign up for. I hope the Spurs would, too.