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Rumor: Celtics offered ‘most of their best draft picks’ to Spurs for Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) celebrates sinking a basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks onTuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)


The Celtics refused to include their top players in Kawhi Leonard trade talks.

But that didn’t mean Boston refused to make the Spurs a compelling offer.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

A all the reporting from this sort of trickled in, I think the Celtics offered most of their best draft picks. I don’t think the Celtics just offered, “You could have a bunch of our picks.” I think some of the picks they own – at least two of the picks, if not all of them – that they own from other teams, including the Kings, Grizzlies and Clippers, I think those were all in the deal.

In addition to all their own, the Celtics have three extra first-round picks:

  • Higher of the Kings’ and 76ers’ in 2019 – unless it’s No. 1, in which case Boston would get the lower of the two picks
  • Grizzlies’ top-eight-protected in 2019, top-six-protected in 2020 or unprotected in 2021
  • Clippers’ lottery-protected in 2019 and 2020 – though if not conveyed either of those years, it becomes the Clippers’ 2022 second-rounder

That Sacramento pick is a huge asset, and the Memphis pick is sneaky valuable.

Plus, the Celtics would have had to match Leonard’s salary. They really don’t have any bad contracts. Unless they planned to send a drastically overpaid Marcus Smart to San Antonio in a sign-and-trade, their offer must have also included positive-value players.

But San Antonio wanted to remain competitive. That’s what happens when a 69-year-old coach runs the front office. So, the Spurs prioritized landing a star for their star and got DeMar DeRozan. That’s their prerogative, and there’s certainly a logic to continuing to win with an elite coach like Popovich and a roster already built for the present.

On the other hand, sometimes external factors should supersede internal preferences. If the Celtics made a monster trade offer built around draft picks, maybe San Antonio should have taken it and pivoted into rebuilding. Competing in next year’s Western Conference will be hard enough even with DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Popovich.

Heck, taking the draft picks – if they carried more overall value than the Raptors’ package – and flipping them for veterans should have been considered.

Maybe the Spurs just felt Toronto’s offer carried more value, regardless. And even if San Antonio were dead set on remaining competitive no matter what draft picks were offered, that’s the team’s right.

But if you focus on winning immediately at the expense of the future, you better win immediately. Otherwise, there’s no payoff and returning to a high level becomes harder than it would have been.