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NBA Trade Rumors: Examining Who Is on the Block Entering 2018 Free Agency

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 28, 2018

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2018, file photo, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) moves the ball up court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, in San Antonio. The absolute unwillingness to answer certain questions is part of the San Antonio Spurs' mystique. The Spurs just don't share much. So there is some unmistakable irony here that when it comes to the obviously fractured relationship between San Antonio and Kawhi Leonard, it's the Spurs who are the ones frustrated by the lack of answers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

Take off work for the next week, grab your popcorn and program your phone to received as many NBA alerts as possible—free agency is nearly here.

Never mind that we're still a few days away from teams being allowed to court free agents and a smidge over a week out from any contracts being finalized.

The exchange period is close enough that rumors are flying fast and furious. We have all the latest trade buzz compiled below.

                  

Lakers, Spurs Talking Kawhi Trade?

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

This is not a drill, folks.

As ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst reported, the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs have reignited trade talks for disgruntled superstar Kawhi Leonard:

"The Los Angeles Lakers re-engaged the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday in pursuit of a trade for All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard, league sources told ESPN.

"The stakes on these talks are enormous, because the teams believe a deal for Leonard would likely clinch a free-agent commitment out of LeBron James to the Lakers.

"... The Spurs have wanted to find a way to repair the franchise's relationship with Leonard, but an overwhelming Lakers offer could convince San Antonio to part with its franchise star, league sources said."

The ESPN scribes laid out an extensive list of options that could comprise such an offer. While the parts won't change, L.A. might sacrifice some combination of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Julius Randle (in a sign-and-trade), 25th pick Mo Wagner and future first-round picks.

That sounds like a lot, right? Well, no, actually. Not if the potential prize involves both James and Leonard.

James, who has until Friday to decide on a player option for next season, just averaged 27.5 points, 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds, then powered through to an eighth consecutive NBA Finals appearance. And a healthy Leonard—he missed most of last season with a nagging quad injury—is arguably a top-five talent, having averaged 25 points, captured a Finals MVP and twice been named Defensive Player of the Year.

Oh, there's one more aspect to consider—if the Lakers land both Leonard and James, they could still carve out a spot for Paul George.

                   

Raptors Open for Business?

Adam Hunger/Associated Press

The Toronto Raptors have long signaled a willingness to change.

Firing the NBA's Coach of the Year (Dwane Casey, now with the Detroit Pistons) after establishing the franchise's new high mark in victories (59) sent that message pretty clearly.

In case that wasn't blatant enough, TSN's Josh Lewenberg spelled it out as plain as possible.

"The league-wide sense is that the Raptors are open for business," Lewenberg wrote. "No one on their roster is off limits, and while they're not actively shopping them, they're willing to listen to offers for their two All-Stars, [DeMar] DeRozan and [Kyle] Lowry."

Lewenberg said trading either DeRozan or Lowry could be complicated. They're not only the backbone of a franchise hoping to stay competitive—as any win-now Eastern Conference club should given James' uncertainty—they're also paid like stars and neither is a pristine trade target (Lowry is 32, DeRozan has yet to prove he's a competent floor spacer).

That's why Lewenberg described a potential trade involving either Serge Ibaka or Jonas Valanciunas as "more likely." The Raptors aren't sold on the pairing, team sources told Lewenberg, and feel both are essentially 5s in the modern NBA.

Of course, both big men are far from cheap. Plus, Ibaka is inconsistent, and Valanciunas underwhelms as both a shooter (career-high 0.4 threes a game last season) and passer (career-high 1.1 assists per match).

So, it's possible next season's Raptors will look a lot like last season's. But it doesn't sound like a lack of movement will stem from a lack of trying.

               

Celtics Struggling To Enter Kawhi Sweepstakes?

SAN ANTONIO, TX - DECEMBER 14: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs posts up against the Boston Celtics on December 14, 2016 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or us
Mark Sobhani/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics belong in every blockbuster discussion, given their rich collection of assets. They're uniquely built to compete both now and later, so they can theoretically form a trade package to meet nearly anyone's demands.

But that reportedly hasn't helped them gain traction in their pursuit of Leonard.

"The Celtics, according to multiple league sources, would like to be involved," Steve Bulpett wrote for the Boston Herald. "But there has been nothing yet to indicate they have a realistic chance."

The Spurs and Celtics briefly chatted, per Bulpett, but there weren't real negotiations. Bulpett went on to say "it's not believed" the Celtics would part with Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown, and might be reluctant to move their 2019 first-rounder from the Sacramento Kings without an opportunity to speak with Leonard and get a feel for both his health and interest in Boston.

While Boston could potentially beat any offer, that probably isn't happening if Tatum and Brown are both off the table and that coveted future first might be, too.

The tricky thing is the Celtics could be making the right play. Tatum looks about as untouchable as a young player can. Brown isn't far behind, and that pick is too valuable to give up without some assurances from Leonard.

                 

Statistics used courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com. Salary information obtained via Basketball Insiders.

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