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Report: Spurs wouldn’t trade Kawhi Leonard to 76ers unless they included Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid

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The 76ers reportedly refused to include Markelle Fultz in trade offers for Kawhi Leonard, which seems misguided to me. Leonard carries major questions about his future, but after his rookie year, so does Fultz! At least Leonard has proven he can reach an elite level. That’s not to say Philadelphia should have definitely dealt Fultz for Leonard. The 76ers definitely have a better understanding of Fultz’s behind-the-scenes progress, and they might have more information on Leonard’s health and willingness to stay long-term. I just wouldn’t have made Fultz a deal-breaker in negotiations.

But it seems the Spurs placed a far more unreasonable restriction on Philadelphia, though.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

The Spurs made it clear any deal with Philly would require Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid (likely Simmons), and the Sixers weren’t going anywhere near that, league sources say.

Given their age and contract status – and, in Simmons’ case, health – Simmons and Embiid are each way more valuable than Leonard. There’s no way the 76ers would have dealt either of those two for Leonard.

Which apparently took a still-viable suitor off the table for San Antonio.

Between Fultz, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Zhaire Smith, the Heat’s 2021 first-rounder and Philadelphia’s own picks, the 76ers could have assembled a better package than the Raptors sent the Spurs for Leonard. Maybe the 76ers wouldn’t have. But it would have been worth at least exploring.

It seems San Antonio placed too much on remaining competitive, which led to a deal revolving around DeMar DeRozan. There’s nothing wrong with that strategy per se, but it gets more difficult to defend when the Spurs got so little. In this Western Conference, they could slip out of the playoffs, even with DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl. A long-term approach should have at least been considered.

To be fair, I’d also caution against taking this report at face value with no skepticism. Today, 28 teams – especially those, like Philadelphia, linked to Leonard – are trying to explain why they didn’t get the star. This could easily be the 76ers’ spin and not an accurate reflection of the Spurs’ stance.

But Lowe is a great reporter, and I tend to trust this – which raises red flags about San Antonio.

Report: Nemanja Bjelica backs out of contract agreement with 76ers to return to Europe

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Nemanja Bjelica had his $4,937,499 qualifying offer pulled by the Timberwolves (so they could sign Anthony Tolliver while remaining out of the luxury tax).

Bjelica rebounded with the 76ers, agreeing to take the $4,449,000 room exception for one year.

But…

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

DeAndre Jordan 2.0? Maybe. We don’t know exactly what, if any, contingencies Bjelica and Philadelphia put on the agreement.

A key distinction: Jordan pledged to sign with the Mavericks and reneged all during the July moratorium, when he couldn’t officially sign. Bjelica’s deal with Philadelphia came out a day before the moratorium ended, and he could have signed during the last 11 days.

Teams often delay signing players with the room exception, because they can exceed the cap with it. But the 76ers have long used up their cap space. Unless they have a bigger deal in mind and asked Bjelica to wait just in case, they should have known for a while something might be amiss.

Bjelica is better than any remaining unrestricted free agent, so he won’t be easily replaced. Philadelphia will probably hold its room exception for potential buyout players, as it’s unclear anyone available could command more than a minimum salary.

The 76ers certainly viewed Bjelica as a replacement for Ersan Ilyasova, who left for the Bucks. Depth matters, but at least Philadelphia still has a stretch four in Dario Saric, who improved his range (and a lot more) last season.

Bjelica’s defection will also help, though not solve, the 76ers’ roster crunch. They still have 16 players clearly getting standard contracts – one more than the regular-season limit – and 2017 second-round Jonah Bolden has stated a plan to sign with Philadelphia for next season. So, the 76ers might have to buy out Jerryd Bayless and/or waive players like Justin Anderson and Furkan Korkmaz.

Celtics’ Jaylen Brown: I wanted LeBron James to stay in Eastern Conference

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The 76ers’ Dario Saric and Wizards’ Tomas Satoransky each said they wanted to avoid LeBron James in the playoffs – and both got their wish. Philadelphia and Washington got eliminated before facing LeBron’s Cavaliers.

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown is taking a different approach with LeBron leaving Cleveland for the Lakers.

Brown, via Tom Westerholm of MassLive:

“To be honest, I wanted him to stay,” Brown said. “I was kind of mad, I wanted to be the team to go through him. I feel like we could have had it last year, but we fell a little bit short. But I applaud someone doing what’s best for him. He did what’s best for him in that situation. I wanted him to stay in the East. People say, I don’t like when people say ‘Now that LeBron’s gone, y’all are the favorite.’ That irks me. A lot of us, we feel the same, because we feel that whether he was there or wasn’t there, we was coming out.”

LeBron has looked back fondly on his rivalry with the Celtics during his first Cleveland tenure and time with the Heat. It was just beginning to reignite. The Cavs swept Boston in the 2015 first round, beat Boston 4-1 in the 2017 Eastern Conference finals then escaped Boston 4-3 in the 2018 conference finals.

The younger Celtics would have eventually overtaken Cleveland, even if LeBron had stayed, but this hastens their ascent. Boston will battle the 76ers (and maybe others) for Eastern Conference supremacy, but the road is far clearer with LeBron gone.

Yet, Brown opposes in a commendable display of competitiveness. That’s part of what makes him such a promising player.

But I bet he’ll still appreciate all the winning the Celtics do with LeBron in Los Angeles.

Report: Markelle Fultz (76ers), Jaylen Brown (Celtics) among players ‘off limits’ in Kawhi Leonard trade

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Update: Perhaps, Wojnarowski meant Al Horford rather than Terry Rozier as a top-five player. Horford is better, but given age and salary, Terry Rozier might have more trade value. So, it’s ambiguous.

 

The 76ers and Celtics are rising powers, because they’re loaded with good, mostly young, players.

For the same reason, both teams are viable trade partners with the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard.

Philadelphia has Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. Boston has Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier.

But apparently neither team is willing to deal those players to San Antonio.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz – they’re off limits. Boston’s really got their top five players off limits. Boston’s more willing to do a deal that’s pick-heavy. But the Spurs want good players back. They don’t want to rebuild. They want picks and guys who can help them stay in the playoffs.

Perhaps, the 76ers can construct a trade around Dario Saric and Robert Covington. Philadelphia also has the Heat’s 2021 first-round pick.

The Celtics are more loaded with draft picks – a Kings or 76ers first-rounder next year, a Grizzlies first-rounder and a Clippers first-rounder. But beyond its top five, Boston’s players aren’t exactly alluring.

Not that the Celtics should include any of those top five. Leonard reportedly isn’t that interested in Boston – a big deal because he can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Perhaps, Philadelphia should dangle Fultz. Leonard might be more interested in staying there.

But his injury presents a big risk for any team that has him. Even a reliable pledge to re-sign would leave major questions.

Really, this shows how far the Spurs are from trading Leonard. They’re asking for the moon, and other teams refuse to include assets worthy of the superstar. That gap can get bridged quickly, but this is the stalemate typical of early trade talks.

GM Danny Ainge calls Celtics’ blockbuster trade “unlikely”

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The San Antonio Spurs want the Celtics to go all-in on the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes — an offer of Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris (for salary balancing), and next year’s Kings’ first-round pick (No. 1 protected only) could win the bidding.

Danny Ainge and the Celtics are not moving fast on this — nor should they be. Do nothing this summer and the Celtics are still probably the team to beat in the East next season (let’s see how free agency shakes out before getting to formal with rankings). Sources say that Boston is not eager to include Brown in any deal, and they are not doing anything without both fresh medical reports on Leonard’s quadriceps tendonitis, and talking to the man and his representatives. Which is wise.

Boston president Ainge also admitted it makes a deal getting done unlikely. Here is what he said, via Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

“If I feel like it’ll help our team — we explore every trade of players of certain magnitude or superstar, first-ballot Hall of Fame-type of players,” Ainge said Friday after the Celtics formally introduced first-round pick Robert Williams at the Auerbach Center. “We’re going to take a look and kick the tires and see if there’s something there. But that’s all.

“I think those things are unlikely.”

Right now the Lakers and Sixers are the teams pushing hard to get a deal done, both feeling pressure because they believe that if they land Leonard, LeBron James will shortly follow.

The Lakers appear to be the frontrunner. Los Angeles is trying hard not to put all their best assets on the table — reportedly they have been slow to offer Brandon Ingram. It’s going to take him to get a deal done (I have been told the Spurs do not want Lonzo Ball), and probably Kyle Kuzma as well, plus a third team to absorb Luol Deng‘s contract (and that team will want a serious sweetener in the mix). For the Lakers, that is worth it if it lands Leonard and LeBron, but they are rightfully trying to extract the best deal they can. Los Angeles is also reported to be talking to Denver and other teams looking to unload a bad contract and would surrender a first-round pick the Lakers could give the Spurs as well, but taking on that contract would likely mean no Paul George (who, according to sources, is seriously considering a short contract to stay in OKC).

Philadelphia’s offer is reportedly Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and the Miami Heat unprotected 2021 pick. The Sixers ould include Markelle Fultz instead of Saric, if the Spurs wanted, and they have other picks and options to throw in the mix.

It’s in the Spurs hands right now, and they are going to be patient and wait for the best offer they can get. They can afford to wait on Boston, putting pressure on L.A. If the Lakers think they can get Leonard and not give up Ingram or other key assets, this could drag out. Complicating LeBron’s decision.

Still, things are trending the way Lakers fans want.