Celtics Rumors

Kawhi Leonard Rumors: Clippers, Lakers, Celtics

The first major story of the NBA offseason broke on Friday, when multiple reports indicated that Kawhi Leonard wanted out of San Antonio. While the Spurs will take a patient, measured approach to the situation and won’t rush Leonard out the door, there was certainly no shortage of trade rumors surrounding the star forward over the weekend.

We’ve got a few more Kawhi-related items to round up this morning, so let’s dive right in…

  • Both the Lakers and Clippers have some concerns about the severity of Leonard’s quad injury, writes Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. While no player on the Lakers’ roster is untouchable, the team’s willingness to part with major pieces for Leonard would depend on how confident the front office is in his health.
  • Assuming the Clippers are comfortable with Leonard’s health, they’d be willing to create a package headlined by Tobias Harris and the 12th or 13th pick in this year’s draft, a source tells Ganguli.
  • Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks of ESPN.com take a closer look at what the Celtics could offer for Leonard, exploring whether higher-priced veteran stars like Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward could be trade chips or whether Boston could put together a package using a handful of less expensive players.
  • Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com examines the impact that the Leonard situation could have on LeBron James‘ decision this summer.
  • The Leonard saga represents the “end of the innocence” for Spurs fans, Mike Finger explains in a column for The San Antonio Express-News.

Celtics Notes: Leonard, Irving, Draft, Summer League

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge is wary of paying a steep price for Kawhi Leonard without a guarantee that he’ll stay more than one season, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Leonard has asked for a trade out of San Antonio and the Celtics may be able to put together the best offer, but Ainge will probably be cautious, according to Washburn.

He suggests Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum would have to be part of the package, along with the rights to the Kings’ first-rounder in 2019. It might be easier to match salaries by including Gordon Hayward, but his trade value has dropped after missing the season with a severe ankle fracture.

Kyrie Irving can already opt out next season, and the Celtics might be reluctant to have two stars on their roster who could leave at the same time, especially if it means breaking up a young core that looks like it will be a contender for several years.

There’s more today from Boston:

  • Irving hopes to resume playing again “in like a month,” he said in an appearance this week on The Bill Simmons Podcast. NBC Sports Boston relayed a few of his comments, including an explanation of what it was like to deal with a knee infection that forced him to miss the entire playoffs. “I was leaving the games at halftime because I had eight-hour shifts of antibiotics I had to take for my infection,” Irving said. “I had a PICC line in my arm for two months and I’m just like… every day is like OK, I can’t necessarily lift, I can’t run, I can’t do anything. If I didn’t have my PICC line in for my infection I would have definitely tried to go after being ready for at least the Eastern Conference Finals.”
  • The Celtics have a recent history of going the draft-and-stash route late in the first round, but the overseas talent doesn’t warrant it this year, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Apart from Luka Doncic, the only foreign players with a shot at being taken in the first round are French point guard Elie Okobo and Bosnian wing Dzanan Musa, according to Blakely.
  • Guerschon Yabusele, Kadeem Allen and Jabari Bird are all expected to be part of the Celtics’ summer league team in Las Vegas, Washburn notes. Bird has a two-way contract, so Boston has to make a qualifying offer before he is eligible. Jay Larranaga will coach the team.

Leonard Trade Rumors: Lakers, Kings, Knicks, Celtics, Odds

It would be a tight squeeze financially but the Lakers could conceivably acquire Kawhi Leonard in a trade and sign both LeBron James and Paul George as free agents, according to Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com. Leonard’s desire to be traded from the Spurs, with Los Angeles being his preferred destination, was made public on Friday. The trade would have to be completed before any free agent signings and the Spurs would have to be willing to take back Luol Deng‘s bad contract, Pelton continues. A package of either Lonzo Ball or Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma might be enough to entice the Spurs to do that, though a third team might be needed in order to match up salaries. The Lakers could then sign James and George, and fill out the roster using their room mid-level exception along with veterans agreeing to minimum contracts, Pelton adds.

In other notes involving Leonard trade chatter:

  • The Kings could be a darkhorse to land Leonard, Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports tweets. Sacramento is desperately seeking a star-level talent and is willing to part with the No. 2 pick in the draft to get one, according to Mannix.
  • The Knicks would have to part with Kristaps Porzingis to have any chance of securing Leonard, Marc Berman of the New York Post speculates. The only other major assets the Knicks possess are their lottery pick (No. 9 overall), their potential lottery pick in 2020 and last year’s lottery selection, point guard Frank Ntilikina. But the Knicks could only trade one of those picks under CBA rules and they’d also have to give up another big salary to make the trade work, Berman notes.
  • The Celtics are expected to express interest in Leonard in their quest to land superstars, Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe reports. However, a league source told Himmelsbach that the timing of the leak might actually be a negotiating ploy to secure a five-year, $219MM maximum extension from the Spurs.
  • The Lakers are the heavy favorites to land Leonard, according to the Bovada Sportsbook as relayed by Adam Zagoria of the New York Times (Twitter link). The Lakers are less than even money at 5-7 to have Leonard in their opening-night lineup. The Celtics are rated at 15-4, a little less than 4-1, to acquire Leonard. The Sixers and Spurs are next as 5-1 proposition, followed by the Cavaliers and Clippers at 10-1.

Taking A Closer Look At LeBron James’ Future

One of the NBA’s all-time best players can become a free agent this summer, and despite rumors about which cities he does and doesn’t like, or where his kids might be attending school next fall, LeBron James‘ next team remains a mystery.

We will, of course, be covering all the latest news and rumors on James’ decision in the coming weeks, but before he decides on his home for the 2018/19 season, we want to take a look at several key factors which will help determine where LeBron will continue his career.

Let’s dive right in…

Why June 29, not July 1, may be the most important LeBron-related date of the summer:

Discussing James’ upcoming “free agency” is getting a step ahead of ourselves, since there’s a very real chance that the four-time MVP won’t become a free agent at all. James currently holds a player option for the 2018/19 season.

Star free agents usually decline player options because doing so gives them a chance to earn a larger salary and to potentially secure a long-term deal if they so choose. However, in James’ case, his $35,607,968 player-option salary actually exceeds the projected maximum salary based on a $101MM cap ($35.35MM). As such, there may not be a strong incentive to opt out of his contract.

Exercising that player option would open up more doors for James this offseason. There are barely any teams around the league that project to have $35MM+ available in cap room to sign him outright as a free agent, but virtually any club could put together a trade package to acquire him if he opts in.

This situation is very reminiscent of Chris Paul‘s 2017. Widely expected to reach free agency, Paul instead picked up his 2017/18 player option before his late-June deadline in order to accommodate a trade to the Rockets, who didn’t have the cap space to sign CP3 outright.

A looming June 29 player-option decision deadline means that James and his representatives may ultimately have to make a decision on his next destination before the end of the month. If LeBron wants to go to a team that will need to trade for him after he opts in, he’ll have to reach an understanding with the Cavaliers by June 29 to ensure that they don’t just keep him for next season once he picks up his option. Additionally, in that scenario, the Cavs would need to feel comfortable that they’ll be able to work out an acceptable trade with the team James wants to join.

It’s an unusual situation, and one that could mean we find out James’ 2018/19 destination even before the new league year begins on July 1.

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NBA: Draft Eligibility Rules Could Change By 2021

The NBA sent out a memo to all 30 teams on Friday telling them that draft eligibility rules could change by 2021, but no earlier, reports ESPN’s Zach Lowe. The memo indicates that the league is reviewing issues “related to player development and the corruption investigation in college basketball.”

According to Lowe, the memo doesn’t mention the one-and-done rule specifically, but reports have suggested that the NBA is considering making changes to that rule, which requires prospects to be 19 years old or at least one year removed from high school in order to become eligible to enter the draft.

The league presumably wants to give teams plenty of warning if such a change is coming, since allowing prospects to enter the draft directly out of high school could create one year when the draft class is especially loaded. For instance, if the NBA eliminates the one-and-done rule for the 2021 draft, the final group of one-and-done players and the first group of high school prospects could both be draft-eligible that year. The NBA’s memo says that the eligibility rules aren’t expected to undergo any changes for the 2019 or 2020 drafts.

While teams still have plenty of time to prepare for potential changes to draft eligibility rules, the timing of the memo is worth noting. As Lowe observes, we’ll likely see some clubs trade future picks as part of draft-night deals next week, so the league wants those teams to have as much information as possible about the potential makeup of future draft classes.

The Heat, in particular, could be impacted by this news, since they’ve already sent their unprotected 2021 first-round pick to the Suns. The Grizzlies and Bucks could also end up surrendering unprotected first-rounders in ’21 to the Celtics and Suns, respectively, but those traded picks – which are protected in 2019 and 2020 – will likely change hands before then.

According to Lowe, the memo indicates that the NBA will discuss draft eligibility issues further at the league’s annual meetings at the Las Vegas Summer League next month.

Kawhi Leonard Rumors: Sixers, Celtics, Lakers, Kings

The NBA offseason is officially in full swing, with word breaking today that Kawhi Leonard is looking to be traded out of San Antonio. Interestingly, Leonard’s camp seemingly leaked the news to several outlets at once, but hadn’t yet directly informed the Spurs of the star forward’s desire to be traded.

Despite today’s reports, the Spurs won’t rush into anything, and will consider all their options thoroughly before they start fielding inquires on Leonard. However, it’s hard to imagine the former Defensive Player of the Year wearing a Spurs uniform when the 2018/19 season gets underway.

Here are a few of the latest rumors and notes on the Leonard situation:

  • Expect the Sixers, Celtics, Lakers, and Clippers to be the primary contenders for Leonard, tweets Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. O’Connor notes that teams with high 2018 draft picks could enter the mix, but it would be a significant risk for those clubs with Leonard just one year away from reaching unrestricted free agency.
  • Sacramento is one team with a top pick that could make a play for Leonard, with multiple reports indicating that the Kings – who have the No. 2 selection – will express interest. However, James Ham of NBC Sports California would be surprised if the Kings are really willing to make that sort of gamble.
  • Sean Deveney of The Sporting News makes a case for why it’s the right time for the Lakers to be aggressive in their pursuit of Leonard.
  • ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter) suggests the Spurs – like the Pacers a year ago with Paul George – will probably have little interest in making a trade with the Lakers. In Wojnarowski’s view, the Celtics could offer the best building blocks for San Antonio.
  • Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link) is reluctant to draw a direct line between Leonard’s situation and George’s in 2017, noting that the Thunder went all-in without any long-term assurances from PG13 because they wanted to convince Russell Westbrook to sign a long-term extension. As Goodwill observes, the Celtics and Sixers won’t be as desperate.

Kawhi Leonard Wants Out Of San Antonio

Star forward Kawhi Leonard wants the Spurs to trade him, league sources tell Jabari Young of The San Antonio Express-News. Multiple outlets have confirmed the news, with Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports writing that Leonard has “grown uncomfortable” in San Antonio and would like a change.

Sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link) that while it seems clear Leonard wants a change of scenery, he has yet to express anything directly to the Spurs about his future, and the team won’t rush the process.

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Leonard – a Los Angeles native – has L.A. “at the center” of his preferred landing spots. While the Clippers could offer a compelling trade package and plan to pursue Leonard aggressively, per Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link), the Lakers are atop his wish list, Wojnarowski adds.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Ian Begley reports (via Twitter) that people close to Leonard have expressed a desire for the 26-year-old to play in New York, though the Knicks might have trouble putting together a viable trade package without including Kristaps Porzingis. Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports adds the Kings to the list of teams who could kick the tires, tweeting that Sacramento has talked to teams about the No. 2 overall pick and “desperately” wants an established star.

The Sixers have also been cited as an asset-rich team with interest in acquiring Leonard, and the Celtics would fit that bill too. Boston reportedly made an offer for Leonard at the 2018 trade deadline, and Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter) that the C’s still have interest.

Leonard is just a year away from being able to reach unrestricted free agency, so he should be able to assert some leverage in the process depending on how willing – or unwilling – he is to commit long-term to certain teams. However, as we saw last summer with Paul George, who also wanted to join the Lakers, there will likely be clubs willing to roll the dice on a player of Leonard’s caliber without any assurances that he’ll stick around for longer than one year.

Of course, in George’s case, he was coming off a healthy, productive season, which can’t be said for Leonard. As we’ve written throughout the 2017/18 league year, Leonard and the Spurs were at odds this season over the diagnosis and treatment of a troublesome quad issue, with Leonard’s own doctors disagreeing with team doctors about the nature of the injury. That disagreement has been a source of tension between the Spurs and Leonard’s camp. The veteran was also reportedly put off by having his status questioned during a players-only meeting.

There was a belief that the Spurs and Leonard would look to mend fences this offseason, especially since the former first-round pick is eligible for a “super-max” extension that would start at 35% of the cap and would pay him well over $200MM for five seasons. San Antonio is the only team eligible to sign Leonard to such a deal, though there was no guarantee that the club would put that offer on the table. If Leonard is traded, he’d be eligible next summer to sign a five-year contract worth up to 30% – rather than 35% – of the cap.

According to Chris Haynes of ESPN.com (Twitter link), Leonard isn’t worried about the possibility of missing out on the super-max. Haynes adds that there’s a “feeling of betrayal” on Leonard’s side that at this point appears irreparable, as the two-time Defensive Player of the Year feels like the franchise turned on him after he sought a second opinion on his quad.

Per Haynes, Leonard and Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich have been in touch in recent days, but have yet to speak in person.

Although a number of teams figure to be in the mix for the former NBA Finals MVP if and when San Antonio begins taking calls, it’s hard not to see the Lakers as an ideal fit, assuming the Spurs aren’t committed to sending him to the Eastern Conference.

Besides being Leonard’s preferred destination, L.A. also has several young players that could intrigue the Spurs in a trade, and has indicated that none are untouchable. The Lakers would still have more than enough cap room to add another star in free agency after taking on Leonard’s $20MM salary for 2018/19. They’re also projected to be so far below the cap that they wouldn’t necessarily need to match salaries in a deal after July 1.

When the Lakers weighed a George trade a year ago, one key question they had to answer was how much they were willing to surrender for a player who might simply head to L.A. as a free agent 12 months later. The franchise figures to face a similar dilemma this offseason as it considers trading for Leonard. If the Lakers are confident they can land another star or two, it may make more sense to go all-in for Leonard than it did with George in 2017.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Notes: Bagley, DiVincenzo, Sexton, Brunson, Gabriel, Bates-Diop

Duke University product Marvin Bagley III is expected to sign an endorsement deal with Puma, tweets JonKrawczynski of The Athletic. The deal is over five years and is expected to be the largest shoe deal signed by a rookie since Kevin Durant inked a seven-year, $60MM deal with Nike, Krawczynski adds.

The deal is historic as Puma has not represented an NBA player in nearly two decades. The last time Puma signed an NBA player was Vince Carter in 1998, per Yahoo! Sports. Bagley is widely expected to one of the top five picks in the draft.

Puma has also expressed interest in Oklahoma point guard Trae Young, another likely top-10 pick, per ESPN’s Nick DePaula.

Check out more draft notes below:

  • Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo is in Phoenix to interview with the Suns, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7. DiVincenzo has already worked out for the Timberwolves, Bulls, Pacers, and several other clubs.
  • Fellow Villanova guard Jalen Brunson completed a previously-reported workout with the Pacers on Thursday, tweets Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports. Brunson now has scheduled visits with the Spurs and Celtics.
  • Alabama point guard Collin Sexton, who has been selective with the teams he works out for, is scheduled to meet with the Magic on Saturday, tweets Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
  • Possible first-round pick Keita Bates-Diop will work out for the Hawks soon, tweets Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The Ohio State forward worked out for the Wizards on Thursday.
  • After working out for the Raptors on Thursday, Wenyen Gabriel has scheduled visits with the Sixers, Pistons, and Hornets on tap, tweets Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com.
  • The Hornets will work out six players on Friday, the team announced in a press release. The scheduled participants include Xavier’s Trevon BluiettMississipi’s Markel Crawford, Oregon State’s Drew Eubanks, Nebraska’s Anton Gill, Virginia’s Nigel Johnson, and Wichita State’s Shaquille Morris.

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Stevens, Leonard, Brown, Ujiri

There has been speculation that Kyrie Irving‘s days in Boston may be numbered as he can hit the free agent market after next season. We already noted that Irving will not consider an extension this summer as his focus is coming back healthy from knee surgery and helping the Celtics capture a championship.

A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston examines all the reasons why it makes sense for Irving to stay in Boston beyond next season. As Blakely notes, the Celtics’ ability to field a winning team and to offer him the most money, along with the chance of leading a team to a championship, are all reasons for Irving to remain in Celtics green. Blakely also notes the stability of the Celtics’ front office and coaching staff as strong points since Irving’s stint with the Cavaliers included four head coaches and three general managers.

A healthy Irving will strengthen a team that was on the brink of an NBA Finals appearance. In addition to Irving, Gordon Hayward is expected back healthy next season. A strong year — along with Boston’s resources — could lead to Irving signing long-term in Beantown.

Check out more Atlantic Division notes below:

  • Brad Stevens is regarded as one of the NBA’s premier coaches. He has led the Celtics to the playoffs in four of his five NBA seasons and to the conference finals the past two years. As he gears up for the 2018/19 season with a healthy roster, Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders explains why next season may be the most important of Stevens’ career.
  • NBC Sports Boston discussed whether or not it makes sense to deal one of the Celtics’ top young players in a trade for Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard. We relayed yesterday that Boston made an offer for Leonard before the trade deadline this past season.
  • After Bryan Colangelo’s departure from the Sixers due to his alleged use of burner accounts, head coach Brett Brown was given the role on an interim basis until a replacement general manager is hired. Derek Bodner of The Athletic (subscription required) writes about the challenge Brown faces and how it may be too much responsibility.
  • President of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said the Raptors are “open for business” as the team tries to construct a more sustainable roster, tweets Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun.