Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
When Leonard’s desire to be traded from San Antonio to the Lakers was leaked via several media outlets last week, it was natural to wonder if he would become the star who compels James to come to LA. But in the days that followed, the Spurs wasted no time in sending this message all around the NBA: The only Western Conference team he might be playing for is theirs.
Fellow West teams have been told, in essence, to get lost – none moreso than the Lakers, according to ESPN. As it stands, the Spurs are determined to either fix the situation or trade Leonard to an Eastern Conference team. For teams other than the Lakers, the threat of losing Leonard in free agency next summer makes the prospect of offering meaningful assets a complicated, calculated risk.
The San Antonio Spurs don’t seem to be in any rush to decide on a Kawhi Leonard trade. The draft came and went without so much as a whiff of a Spurs trade rumor.
That means that neither the Sixers, with all their assets, nor the Spurs, with their star player, were particularly interested in a deal with each other. Philly must feel good about signing a big name with its cap space, so sending out picks or players to bring in a star didn’t make sense to them. At the same time, San Antonio didn’t seem to think hitting an immediate reset button was worth offering up Leonard.
Philadelphia isn’t necessarily out of the mix at this point, but picks have promise for a team getting them in a trade, which is what makes them valuable. Once those picks become actual players, then the receiving team has to consider fit and style of play, making it more difficult to consummate a deal.
The Boston Celtics have, easily, the best array of talent and remaining unused picks to make an offer to San Antonio. If they’re able to keep Marcus Smart, he’ll be on a contract that makes matching deals much easier than it is right now. If Boston is, in fact, in the running to make an offer for Kawhi, the timing of this whole thing fits perfectly.
The Spurs are biding their time to give Kawhi a chance to figure his life out. If outside forces are the actual driver behind this (family, friends, Jordan brand) then maybe Gregg Popovich can finagle his way back into Kawhi’s head and convince him to stay. By the time all that gets sorted out, key deadlines will have passed that make all of Boston’s assets tradeable.
In short, Boston would need to wait to pull off a deal anyway, so they’re fine with how this is playing out.
Meanwhile, let’s not discount two other teams who could be looking to make big splashes: The Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards.
Both teams had horribly disappointing playoff exits. Both have star players that could be moved. Both are desperate enough to maybe take back additional salary (Patty Mills or Pau Gasol) to make the trade more palatable for San Antonio. If San Antonio feels like pairing LaMarcus Aldridge with a star guard, they could look the Raptors or Wizards in a blockbuster deal.
The Celtics will continue to be mentioned heavily in these kinds of rumors moving forward. I still maintain my position that Jaylen Brown has a very high potential for becoming Kawhi-light, and keeping that kind of player on a rookie contract and subsequent extension is more valuable from a team-building perspective. However, there is no doubt that adding Kawhi to the Celtics puts them in the Golden State Warriors stratosphere.
If the Celtics ownership group is willing to pay for the most expensive team in NBA history, then they might just go for it. If they think Jaylen is growing into enough of a Kawhi facsimile that giving up a ton of assets does more harm than good, then they’ll stand pat.
This could very well continue until December 15, when players who signed a contract on or before September 15 can be traded. This would not only be the day the Celtics could include Smart in the deal, it would give the Celtics a couple of months of watching Brown to see how much he has really improved.
He could come back with enough improvements in his game that any trade chatter can be shelved until someone drags Boston back into Anthony Davis rumors. He could also come back with minimal improvements, which would make sending him to San Antonio a little easier to stomach.
The bottom line is this isn’t even close to being finished. Boston will hang around the periphery of the Kawhi Leonard rumors until there’s a culmination of some sort… and that culmination is probably months away.
Page 2: Don’t count on Dwight Howard in Boston
Don’t count on Dwight Howard coming to Boston after securing his buyout in Brooklyn: The veteran big man will play for a fourth different team in his fourth straight season this year after the Charlotte Hornets dealt him away for two years of Timofey Mozgov (one of the worst contracts in the NBA). The Nets are expected to buyout out Howard out of the final year of his contract ($23 million) once free agency hits, which will allow the 32-year-old big man to explore the open market. The Celtics may have been linked to Howard in the past, but it’s hard to envision Boston offering Howard a big enough role (he’s played 29-plus minutes per game in every season) to appeal to him. As long as the Celtics can retain Aron Baynes in free agency, the C’s depth chart at the big spot looks pretty full now with Al Horford, Baynes, Daniel Theis, Guerschon Yabusele and Williams manning the true big spots. No need to add a potential locker room problem like Howard.
Brian Robb does a nice job laying out 10 important things to keep in mind moving forward, but I singled this one out to give you all (and myself) a little bit of relief.
The best thing to happen on draft night might have been Williams dropping to Boston, but not just because he’s a potential steal at the 27th pick. Adding another big to this roster means the Celtics are probably set at that spot once they bring Aron Baynes back.
So that means no Dwight Howard. He can go ruin someone else’s locker room. Sorry Dwight.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony plans to opt in and take the $28 million he is due next season.
The New York Times first reported the 34-year-old Anthony’s decision to bypass the chance to become a free agent. A person with knowledge of details confirmed Anthony’s choice to the Associated Press on Friday night. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.
The Thunder traded for Anthony and Paul George to join Russell Westbrook before last season, moves that gave them high hopes of challenging Golden State in the West. It didn’t work out as planned.
There is still the possibility of a buyout, which would add an interesting wrinkle to free agency. On one hand, you’d think signing Carmelo at the minimum while OKC pays him to play for your team could be a good idea.
On the other hand…
Melo is having an Iverson-esque end to his career where can’t admit that he’s in decline and refuses to adjust his game. While it’s his choice to do that, it’s a bad choice because he’s never going to recapture what he was… and even that was tough to win with.
I’m throwing this all out there to preemptively say “no” to anyone who suggests Boston goes after Melo with the minimum if he’s bought out. Maybe he can go to LA with LeBron and ruin them. I hear Dwight Howard is also available.
The rest of the links: