Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics reportedly tried to trade for Kawhi Leonard last season

Alex Reimer
June 13, 2018 - 10:37 am

The Celtics reportedly attempted to poach Kawhi Leonard last season in the midst of his apparent feud with the Spurs. Now the question is, will Danny Ainge revisit the situation this summer?

Though the Spurs weren’t willing to discuss a deal for Leonard at the time, the Celtics made an offer for his services in February, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. It was a bizarre season for Leonardo, who missed all but nine games with a quadriceps injury and spent the bulk of his time rehabbing away from the team. Wojnarowski says Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and Leonard are expected to meet in the near future to discuss his future in San Antonio. Leonard can be a free agent at the end of the 2019 campaign.

When healthy, Leonard is one of the best players in the league. In fact, Popovich declared Leonard was the “best basketball player in the world” just last year. Over his last two full seasons, Leonard has averaged 23.4 points per game with 6.3 assists and 5.1 rebounds –– while providing exceptional defense. He’s one of the few forwards in the league who can hang with Steph Curry.

The Celtics’ reported pursuit of Leonard shows they were serious about making a Finals run without Gordon Hayward. While they were on the best teams in the East at the time –– Kyrie Irving was so good on a nightly basis –– neither Jayson Tatum nor Jaylen Brown had emerged as All-Star caliber players. A mean midday host was deriding Al Horford as “average.”

Now, of course, the situation is different. The Celtics don’t look like they have a need for Leonard. Also, he and Irving are both slated to be free agents next year. Tatum and Brown are signed to their rookie deals, and Hayward is under control for three more seasons. It would be a gamble to replace one of them with Leonard. 

Wojnarowski reports the Spurs didn’t even make a counteroffer to the Celtics, so perhaps they aren't interested. But if San Antonio wants to trade Leonard, the Celtics probably have the most to offer. In addition to Tatum, Brown and Terry Rozier, they also own the Kings’ No.1-protected 2019 first-round selection. 

Conventional wisdom says the Celtics just have to do some tweaking this offseason to return to the Eastern Conference Finals. But Ainge may have bigger plans in mind, either in the form of Leonard or LeBron. 

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