• Ryan Bernardoni

Kawhi to Boston Trade Possibilities

Some (semi-) interesting reports were published today related to Kawhi Leonard and the Celtics' potential interest in acquiring him. What's been reported all makes sense, but leads to some questions on how trades can be constructed that are worth investigating further.

First, Adrian Wojnarowski, Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne collaborated on a report that included a detail that Boston has made an offer for Kawhi. It's unclear if this is the previously reported offer during last season or a new, more recent offer.

Later, the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett, who often seems to be Danny Ainge's go-to local press conduit, reported that there is interest from the C's but they're not close to anything. Further, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum would not be a part of any offer at the moment (or as long as Kawhi is saying he's dead-set on going to LA next offseason) and that the future Kings pick that Boston owns would likely not be included, either.

All that makes perfect sense. Of course the Celtics would be interested in Kawhi, and the front office is not likely to be so reckless as to include their highest value pieces for a one season rental.

That begs this question: What could they be offering and how could a legal trade be constructed from what's left?

Terry Rozier

A trade offer would logically start with Rozier. Terry and his trade status with Ainge has been a running joke for a few seasons now but he's gone from punchline to valuable piece in the past six months. As a 24 year old starter on a conference finals team who average 16-5-5 in the playoffs with strong advanced stats, any intelligent franchise would see him as a valuable asset.

With the weak crop of point guards just ahead of him in age, it seems relatively likely that he'll be an above average starting guard in a few years. Getting him on his rookie deal and securing his restricted free agency rights, and the ability to extend him this offseason, is a good starting point for a Kawhi trade, if Leonard is certain to be leaving San Antonio.

Marcus Morris

Morris would be the other near lock to be included in a Kawhi trade that doesn't have any of Al Horford, Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, or Jayson Tatum. You need his salary to make things work in a reasonable manner.

Marcus has positive value so he could be flipped to another team, but the Spurs were a playoff team without Kawhi and adding Rozier and Morris would allow them to repeat that so they could keep him. He needs to be included, regardless of ultimate destination.

Guerschon Yabusele

We have to build up $16M in outgoing salary to make a valid Kawhi trade so Yabusele's contract is going to be included. With Rozier and Morris we're up to $11.1M.

Robert Williams

If Kawhi insists that he's going to LA in 2019, this trade amounts to a question of "what would you pay to upgrade from Rozier and Morris to Leonard for one season?"

Rozier and Morris are unlikely to be Celtics beyond next season (if Marcus Smart is retained, which we'll get to) so sending them out for Kawhi is functionally that upgrade. Robert Williams is a part of that upgrade price.

As a drafted rookie, the Celtics can sign him to his scale deal and then include him in a trade after 30 days. We'll be doing that; coming to a handshake agreement with the Spurs but not making the swap official until August.

Add Williams and we're $3.3M short of a valid trade.

NOT Marcus Smart

The inclination is now to say that you want to include Smart in a sign-and-trade. I don't think that's correct. The Spurs probably don't want Smart on the contract he'd have to be offered to agree to this. They already have Dejounte Murray who is a good partner for Rozier but a terrible one for Smart. Marcus would have leverage to get the contract he wants, which will be significantly above market.

Beyond that, Boston is sending Rozier out in this deal and so want to retain Smart long-term. Also I personally really like Marcus.

MAYBE Abdel Nader, Semi Ojeleye, and Daniel Theis

This threesome combine to make $4.1M next season and so that gets you to a valid trade match. This deal is being done in August to use Williams's salary and roster are expanded to 20 players at that time so the Spurs can absorb a 7-for-1 deal and then just cut whoever they don't want (Nader).

WEIRDLY Shane Larkin and Jabari Bird

You could construct this trade by sending Nader but wanting to keep Ojeleye and Theis and so using Bird and Larkin as sign-and-trade pieces. All would have to agree. Bird would, because money. Larkin probably would too, also because money.

This would be a strange trade construction that would make people talk about how smart the front office is.

IDEALLY Greg Monroe

The best way to make this offer of Rozier, Morris, Yabusele, Williams, and some non-Kings pick is to roll in a Greg Monroe sign-and-trade.

Boston has Monroe's Non-Bird Rights allowing them to re-sign him for up to $6M next season. He's not going to get close to that in free agency; he's very likely going to be signing somewhere for the minimum.

That means that, unlike Smart, he'd be more likely to play along. Sign-and-trade deals must be three seasons long but only the first needs to be guaranteed. This mechanism is how Boston and Brooklyn completed the Pierce-KG trade; Keith Bogans signed a rich three season deal that he never saw year two of.

The Celtics could sign Monroe for the necessary $3.3M guaranteed in year one with years two and three completely non-guaranteed. The Spurs would have to pay that $3.3M, but Boston could send $3.3M in cash as part of the trade so... no problem!

As a Non-Bird signing taking a pay cut, he would not be a Base Year Compensation signing and so would not have to get the double-sized salary that Bogans did. He and the Spurs could even agree to an upfront waiving so if the two sides don't want to stay together, he could collect a $3.3M check in early August and then get back into free agency for the minimum signing he's destined for anyway.

The Spurs would be hard-capped for the season at approximately $6M above the luxury tax, but they're not going that deep into the tax for a team without Kawhi, anyway.

If Monroe doesn't want to be in this deal, Nader+Ojeleye+Theis still work even if Boston would be loathe to lose Ojeleye and Theis.

A Trade Package Emerges!

If Kawhi does not give strong indications that he would stay in Boston for more than his current contract, the Celtics could reasonably offer:

Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris, Guerschon Yabusele, Robert Williams, Greg Monroe for $3,266,082M in a sign-and-trade, San Antonio's choice of either Boston's own 2019 pick or the protected Clippers pick with more upside and downside, and $3,266,082 in cash.

$5,375,000 + 3,050,390 + 2,667,600 + 1,640,280 + 3,266,082 = $15,999,352

$15,999,352 * 1.25 +100,000 = $20,099,190 = One Kawhi

Would the Spurs accept this? I doubt it, unless they really don't want to trade with the Lakers and their differences with Leonard prove irreconcilable. That's what I think could reasonably be offered for just a single season upgrade from Rozier and Morris to Kawhi, though. If you want to step up to the Memphis pick well, banners hang forever and hopefully Kawhi is healthy.

But Wait, There's More!

Kawhi has a 15% trade kicker, which he could waive but considering he wants to get to Los Angeles in this example he may not agree to that. If he doesn't, we need to raise $18.4M in outgoing salary, not $16M. If that's the case, using Monroe in a sign-and-trade becomes imperative. Thankfully, his Non-Bird Rights cover to $6M and he would need to sign for $5.7M to make the numbers work with everything else that's been proposed.

He would be very happy to do this. The Celtics couldn't send enough cash to cover his whole salary, but the Spurs can afford to cut a check for a few hundred thousand out of their own pockets in this.

$5,375,000 + 3,050,390 + 2,667,600 + 1,640,280 + 5,677,984 = $18,411,254

$18,411,254 * 1.25 +100,000 = $23,114,068 = One Kawhi + 15% Trade Bonus


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