NBA Rumors: This ‘Determining Factor’ Ended Celtics’ Kawhi Leonard Pursuit


Jun 24, 2019

The Toronto Raptors took a chance last summer, and their gamble might end up paying off even greater than they ever could have imagined.

The Raptors acquired Kawhi Leonard last offseason in a blockbuster trade with the San Antonio Spurs. Most at the time believed Toronto was trading for a one-year rental, as it seemingly was assumed the star forward would jaunt to Los Angeles once his contract expired. But after an incredible debut season with the Raptors which concluded with the franchise’s first championship, Leonard reportedly is “seriously considering” re-signing north of the border.

Toronto’s front office crew now look like geniuses, while other execs across the league likely are kicking themselves for not intensifying their pursuit of Leonard. Perhaps no teams more so than the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, who reportedly were in the thick of the Leonard sweepstakes until the closing stages.

“The informed belief that Leonard had every intention of signing in Los Angeles in 2019 was the determining factor for both the 76ers and Boston Celtics in not accepting more robust proposals by the San Antonio Spurs for Leonard last summer, according to sources with each team who were close to those negotiations,” ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz wrote in a column published Monday.

It’s tough to project how the Celtics would have fared this past season had Leonard been in the fold. The two-time Finals MVP obviously is a generational talent, but star power was by no means an issue for Boston in the 2018-19 campaign. In fact, the abundance of high-level talent actually might have been the Green’s downfall. It’s tough to imagine Leonard’s presence would have totally prevented the dysfunction, and the season-long frustration likely would have led to the 27-year-old walking after just one season.

Boston’s decision not to go all-in on Leonard last offseason made sense at the time and to a degree still does given the franchise’s sudden dependency on its young core. Still, there reportedly are some within the Celtics organization who regret not making a stronger push for the three-time All-Star when they had the chance.

Thumbnail photo via Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports Images
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