Sixers, Celts make top players ‘off limits’ in Kawhi deals

Players such as Joel Embiid (left) are reportedly "off limits" when it comes to potential trade talks for Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs.

There will be a market for Kawhi Leonard, but for now, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics — two of the teams mentioned most when it comes to chasing the San Antonio Spurs’ disgruntled superstar on the trade market — are not prepared to offer important pieces in return.

So says Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. On an appearance on SportsCenter, Woj said with Leonard heading for unrestricted free agency next summer, teams, including the Sixers and Celtics, are not about to mortgage their future for a player who has only one season left on his contract.

“[Joel] Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz — they’re off limits,” Wojnarowski said. “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 they want guys who can help them stay in the playoffs.”

While Wojnarowski did not specifically name the top five players the Celtics have made “off limits,” it’s not difficult to assume that list would include Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Boston does have a war chest of attractive picks in the 2019 NBA draft to offer, including first-round picks of the Sacramento Kings (top-1 protected), the Memphis Grizzlies (top-8 protected) and the Los Angeles Clippers (top-14 protected).

Philadelphia not being willing to part with either Embiid or Simmons is certainly not a surprise, either. The 76ers might be willing to including Fultz, the top pick in the 2017 draft, if push came to shove to acquire Leonard, though.

The Los Angeles Lakers — the reported preferred destination of Leonard, a two-time first-team All-NBA selection who played only nine games last season because of a right quadriceps injury — Wojnarowski said they have not presents an “overwhelming offer” for Leonard.

He said Lakers president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka are very much aware of Leonard’s preference to play in LA and realizing he has only one season left on his deal, won’t pay a steep price to obtain him before next season.