Kyrie For Kawhi Is A Discussion Worth Having

When Kyrie Irving is healthy again (2018-19) it will be the last year of his contract before an opt-out. When Kawhi Leonard is healthy again (2018-19) it will be the last year of his contract before an opt-out. Both players are NBA stars with multiple All-Star exhibition games on the resume and both have a NBA ring.

Kawhi Leonard has the advantage of being a Finals MVP and a two-time winner of Defensive Player of the Year. He’s the better player of the two.

In 2018-19, Kyrie Irving will make $20,099,188. That same season, Kawhi Leonard will make $20,099,189. One dollar separates their salaries. Rarely in the NBA do contracts match. If Danny Ainge is intent on adding a Hall of Fame caliber talent, Kawhi Leonard is it.

Terry Rozier has proven he can start for the Celtics and guide them to wins, at least at home. He is a good player but not a great one like Kyrie. But Kyrie in the Western Conference hands Rozier the point guard gig.  While not an upgrade, Rozier is a good plan B if you are getting Kawhi Leonard in return. Leonard is a two-way player who can guard the best player on the other team, relieving Al Horford of a lot of responsibility. Plus, he is a 25 point per game scorer.

The Spurs, if they can’t get out of this Kawhi funk, need a point guard bad, and a young one at that. Tony Parker isn’t Tony Parker anymore. He’s not a starter, losing the job to Dejounte Murray who averages 8 points a game and 3 assists. The Spurs need creators and Kyrie checks all the boxes. In addition, he would would give massive headaches to Steph Curry, James Harden and Chris Paul.

But does Kawhi want to come to Boston? His “people” are trying to leverage him to the west coast, Los Angeles and the Lakers in particular because Kawhi is local. Kawhi would have to sign off on a trade and an extension wherever he is traded, same with Kyrie, to make both organizations happy.

Career Numbers Games Missed Points 3-Point % Offensive Rating Defensive Rating
Kawhi Leonard 150 (27%) 16.3 38.6% 118 99
Kyrie Irving 117 (21%) 22.0 38.8% 113 109

What is clear is the Celtics miss Kyrie when on the road. On the road is where your superstar takes over. The Celtics are socialists. The strength of the team is the team. On the road though they aren’t able to go out and take the game, only winning one game on the road in the playoffs and that game was as much about the 76ers blowing up with turnovers than the Celtics taking the game. The Celtics struggle meeting the energy level that winning on the road requires. Even if they beat the Cavs, they will have to deal with the Warriors in Oracle because they don’t have home court.

Though out of sight out of mind, the facts remain. Kawhi Leonard is skilled on every part of the floor. 47% from the midrange. 38% from three. 44% on long twos. His career offensive rating is over 117 and his defensive rating is under 100. He is nearly a perfect player. He scores, rebounds. He’s not much of a shot blocker or a creator for others.

Kyrie is magic with the dribble in the paint, finishing with both hands, getting to the line. He loves the three ball and is expert at iso. Where he is weak is defense but this year was his best defensive year of his career. He has averaged 20 ppg every year of his career except two and one of those was his rookie year. But the Kyrie truth is he is injury prone. He’s never played an 82 game schedule. He’s played a 70 game schedule three times and a 50 game schedule three times. His consistency is his health inconsistency.

Why would the Celtics want to jeopardize what they have built this year and bring in Kawhi who also has his injury issues? He’s only played a 70 game schedule twice. Otherwise it is 60 games and out. Kawhi means Jayson Tatum goes to the bench if the Spurs don’t demand Tatum in a trade. Kawhi is a top-5 player, Kyrie is not. The Celtics would have to give up more. Are they willing to give up a 20 year old? More importantly should they?

Danny Ainge gets a lot of credit for how he has restructured the Celtics after the Garnett-Pierce-Allen glory days. But the hardest part of his job is knowing when to gamble and when to say, no I’m good.

Kawhi, if he wants to be in Boston, is a gamble. Kyrie, if he wants San Antonio, is a gamble. At this level, you cannot blink or show weakness. You must push all your chips to the front of the table.

The Spurs want a grand slam offer for Kawhi. That means a superstar and more. More players. More draft picks. The Celtics have the superstar, the players, the draft picks. But they are winning without Kawhi. Why mess things up?

Hall of Fame players separate you from the pack, that’s why. This may be a special season for the C’s but with Kawhi it’s a special decade. It’s a no brainer to go out and get him if you can.