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San Antonio Spurs: What a ‘Celtics-Nets trade’ for Kawhi Leonard looks like

By Rob Wolkenbrod
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 7: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs stands for a moment of silence for the National Anthem before the game against the Houston Rockets during Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2017 Playoffs on May 7, 2017 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 7: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs stands for a moment of silence for the National Anthem before the game against the Houston Rockets during Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2017 Playoffs on May 7, 2017 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The San Antonio Spurs reportedly want a trade, for Kawhi Leonard, that mirrors the Boston Celtics-Brooklyn Nets deal in 2013.

The San Antonio Spurs might be on the cusp of a Kawhi Leonard trade, but where he goes remains is in question, whether it’s the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers or Philadelphia 76ers. However, the Lakers, due to the open LeBron James sweepstakes, may be in the lead.

For what the Spurs could command, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, on The Hoop Collector Podcast (h/t The Spun), they are “basically looking for a Celtics-Nets level trade.” It’s desired because a Leonard trade with the Lakers could start the process of a superteam, something that would happen in conference and to one of their rivals.

What was the Celtics-Nets trade that Windhorst mentioned? It goes back to 2013, when Boston sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and D.J. White to Brooklyn for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, first round picks in 2014 (James Young), 2016 (Jaylen Brown) and 2018 (traded to Cleveland Cavaliers; became Collin Sexton), and the right to swap first-round picks in 2017 (Jayson Tatum via trade).

It’s safe to say the Celtics made out well, with young impact players for years to come. The Cavs trade even gave them Kyrie Irving.

Can the Spurs receive anything close to this from the Lakers? It might be different than the Celtics-Nets situation, as there are Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma at Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka’s disposal. They also selected Moritz Wagner in the 2018 NBA Draft, a player that can fit in as a piece.

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As for first round picks, at the time, the Nets’ selections were not expected to land in the top five. However, once the Pierce-Garnett experiment evaporated within a calendar year, along with the quick decline of Deron Williams and aging Joe Johnson, it turned everything upside down fast. Brooklyn has not recovered since.

For the Lakers, it’s a bet on Leonard and James, who is not guaranteed to sign there this summer. If they do go to Los Angeles, and the experiment fails, both players can leave in the 2019 offseason; Leonard has one year left on his contract and James rarely signs multi-year deals at this point of his career.

If that’s the case, the Spurs would reap the benefits of the young players, whether it’s a combination of the aforementioned players, and future picks to add to a young core and keep the two decades of success alive. How many first-rounders could they get, though, for a top-five player, when healthy, that’s in his prime? (Leonard just turned 27 Friday.)

Next: 2018 NBA free agency: Top 10 targets

The Spurs have a tall task to ahead to receive anything close to the Celtics-Nets deal of 2013. If the Lakers are desperate, however, it can become a franchise-altering transaction for the team that gives away its superstar.

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