The 2017-18 NBA season can’t get any worse for San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard. After missing the first 27 games of the season, he only played nine games and was sidelined indefinitely last month. Though he’s already medically cleared to play by the staff, Leonard is reportedly still in pain and asked the Spurs to shut him down for the rest of the season.
As of now, the Spurs are on a four-game losing streak and continue to adjust without Kawhi Leonard on their team. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the injury, rehabilitation, and timetable for a return resulted in a strained relationship between Leonard and the Spurs. There are speculations that the once strong partnership may come to an end if both parties fail to end the ongoing drama.
Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report believes the Los Angeles Lakers could take advantage of the rumored feud between the Spurs and Leonard. Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka should monitor Leonard’s situation closely, knowing that he has the ability to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019. After sending Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr. to the Cleveland Cavaliers before the February 8 trade deadline, the Lakers are now in a strong position to sign two maximum-salaried players this summer.
If they fail to acquire two superstars, they could go after Kawhi Leonard in the summer of 2019. The Lakers may also consider taking another path if they are really serious about adding Leonard on their team. Pincus suggested the Lakers could engage in a trade deal with the Spurs this summer. In the proposed trade, the Lakers would send Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Luol Deng to San Antonio for Leonard and Brandon Paul. The deal works on the ESPN‘s NBA Trade Machine.
If the trade proceeds, it will definitely help both teams in filling the needs to improve on their roster. Coach Gregg Popovich will gain two young superstars to develop in Ingram and Kuzma. It’s worth noting that the Spurs expressed interest in using their 29th pick in drafting Kuzma before the Lakers took him. Pops can also help revive Deng’s career.
Meanwhile, the potential trade will not only let the Lakers get rid of Deng’s contract, but the acquisition of Leonard may also help them recruit free agents this summer. As Pincus noted, it will clear path for the Lakers to acquire three superstars in the upcoming offseason, which could potentially be Leonard, LeBron James, and Paul George.