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Kawhi Leonard would reportedly accept a trade to a team in the East, but it’s not the Celtics

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard.
San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard.(Tony Gutierrez/AP Photo)

Now that LeBron James will be plying his trade in Los Angeles, every player from the past four All-NBA first teams, as it stands now, will be playing in the Western Conference next season. That could change before the end of the summer as the Boston Celtics or Philadelphia 76ers could try to tilt the East further in their favor.

Both the Celtics and Sixers are reportedly pursuing Kawhi Leonard, the San Antonio superstar who earned first-team honors in 2016 and 2017 before a quad injury sidelined him for all but nine games last season. The Spurs control Leonard’s destiny until he becomes a free agent next offseason, and potential trade suitors have been wary to offer too much without assurances he will at least consider re-signing with them.

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Leonard has long been linked with a move to Los Angeles. However, recent reports have called into question his desire to play second fiddle to James on the Lakers, while the Clippers would struggle to put together a trade package capable of meeting the Spurs’ sky-high asking price.

Despite those barriers, ESPN’s Chris Haynes reports Los Angeles remains Leonard’s preferred landing spot. But Haynes did offer a glimmer of hope to one of the Eastern Conference contenders.

“I want to add clarity to that,” Haynes said on ESPN’s “The Jump.” “Los Angeles are his preferred destinations. He will consider Philly. That’s the only Eastern Conference team he would consider if they’re able to put a package together.”

Although the Sixers are “star-hunting” in search of a championship, Philadelphia has yet to include last year’s No. 1 pick, Markelle Fultz, in a trade offer to San Antonio, according to Rachel Nichols of “The Jump.” Haynes said he’s “dumbfounded” by that approach given that Leonard is a top-five talent in the league when healthy.

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The Celtics have proven equally hesitant to put their best players on the table. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Boston’s top-five players are all “off-limits,” which doesn’t bode well for a deal considering the Spurs are seeking both future draft picks and players that can help them stay in contention.