Prior to Kawhi Leonard becoming a Toronto Raptor, the Boston Celtics reportedly offered a bunch of draft picks for the superstar forward.
A couple of weeks ago, the Toronto Raptors agreed on a trade that would send DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a top-20 protected 2019 first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. The exchange made waves throughout the NBA, surprising both the players involved, and the fans witnessing it all happen. Now, there are reports from NESN saying the Boston Celtics offered a bunch of their picks for Leonard prior to the trade becoming official. The Spurs eventually turned down the offer however.
If this is the case, then GM Danny Ainge did the right thing. Seemingly, there was no circumstance that led to a situation where Boston offered any of their young players to San Antonio, including Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. Ainge instead utilized all of the picks he’s acquired over the past decade and used those as leverage in an effort to force San Antonio into going for a full rebuild. Other than their own picks, Boston also has Sacramento’s 2019 first-rounder, the Clippers’ 2019 first-rounder, and Memphis’s 2019 first-rounder.
Unfortunately, head coach Gregg Popovich refused to take the offer, perhaps because he wants to make as many attempts at winning a championship as possible before he retires. Having DeRozan on the team at least gives the Spurs a shot to compete for the title, although maybe not with Golden State in the mix.
Boston isn’t missing out on much
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Regardless, the Celtics did not miss out. If the apparent trade did go through, then that means the C’s would have Leonard for one year, before he most likely heads out west. In a year where Boston can make the finals with the team they already have, acquiring Leonard isn’t a top priority. Chemistry is everything (just ask the Warriors), as emphasized by Talar Kahwajian. Without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward last year, Tatum and Brown developed into a nice core, gained experience, and eventually some chemistry with veteran Al Horford.
Having Leonard on the team may interfere with any progress the Celtics may want to accomplish. Also, with Leonard being unhappy with the trade, as well as his recent grievances with the Spurs franchise, fans now realize the star has somewhat of an ego on him. Would he and Kyrie even get along? It doesn’t matter now, but people shouldn’t be kicking themselves over Boston being so close to acquiring the forward.
I guess the one thing Boston may be missing out on is the idea of having another coachable star. Leonard was successful in San Antonio because he bought into their system. With Brad Stevens as another stellar coach, Leonard would have done just fine under his tutelage. A situation that almost guarantees a finals appearance; who wouldn’t want that?
People have also made the argument that Toronto can beat the Celtics in a seven-game series. While that’s not out of the question, people need to remember that Boston isn’t shooting to win it this year. Even if the Raptors do get by, the Warriors are still defeating them. Leonard still doesn’t like where he’s at.
All in all, the Celtics can now keep their picks and build even more, especially for a post Golden State-world. Sure, they couldn’t get another franchise-altering talent, but Ainge did all he could, and honestly, that was enough.