Kawhi Leonard's great run in Toronto should give Celtics motivation to land Anthony Davis, regardless of Kyrie's status

Alex Reimer
May 13, 2019 - 10:35 am
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Conventional wisdom says the Celtics would be foolish to acquire Anthony Davis without Kyrie Irving. The disgruntled All-Star is entering the final year of his deal and seemingly desires to play with LeBron James or another superstar. Davis’ own father said this year he doesn’t want his son playing for the Celtics, saying the organization lacks loyalty.

But ultimately, all of that chatter is noise, and Danny Ainge would be wise to ignore it. The Celtics are in position to offer New Orleans the most enticing package for Davis this summer, regardless of Irving’s status. Boston has reportedly been chasing Davis for years, and if it still believes he’s a transformational player, it should try to land him.

The Raptors took a similar risk last year when they acquired Kawhi Leonard, who quit on the Spurs in an apparent attempt to force his way to the Lakers or Clippers. The star forward was so unhappy, he was reportedly thinking about sitting out the season instead of reporting to Toronto. 

But Leonard wound up arriving to camp and put forth his best season ever, averaging a career-high 26.6 points per game. He hit the game-winning shot in Game 7 of the semifinals Sunday, which capped off a remarkable 41-point performance.

Maybe Leonard will still leave Toronto in free agency. His teammates reportedly expect him to play in Los Angeles next season, with the Clippers emerging as front-runners. For once, they appear to be the more stable of the two Staples Center inhabitants, adding to their case.

But the Raptors are probably thrilled with their decision to trade for Leonard, given their Eastern Conference Finals run. They took a risk when they unloaded franchise stalwart DeMar DeRozen for the services of a perceived mercenary, but it’s worked out well so far.

The Celtics’ situation is a bit different than Toronto’s, since the Raptors were still equipped to surround Leonard with quality starters, such as Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and deadline acquisitions Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. Boston, meanwhile, will be up against the salary cap next season, and would conceivably unload most of its collateral in any Davis trade.

Still, Davis is a franchise-altering kind of talent, and the Celtics are one of the NBA’s premier organizations. They could pair Davis and Al Horford in the front court, with Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier and/or a veteran such as Eldrin Payton from Phoenix handling the backcourt duties. While that's a championship nucleus, it is respectable –– especially if the corpse of Gordon Hayward shows any additional life. 

Remember: Kevin Garnett was originally apprehensive about coming here, too, only to fall in love with the city and franchise’s history. The Celtics don’t have to choose between wooing Irving and NBA purgatory. Davis can remain in play, despite all of the chatter to the contrary. 

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