The most persistent Los Angeles Lakers rumors said that the team would focus on pursuing upcoming free agent superstars LeBron James, Paul George, and DeMarcus Cousins in the coming offseason. However, a new speculation has emerged with Sporting News‘ Sean Deveney reporting that trading for San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard would be the Lakers’ “priority” this summer.
Deveney cited an unnamed NBA executive as saying that Los Angeles would “go in hard for Leonard” as soon as the Spurs’ season is done. San Antonio is currently trailing the defending champion Golden State Warriors, 2-0, in their best-of-seven first-round series, and it looks like negotiations for a potential trade could happen sooner than expected.
The said executive claimed that Leonard “wants to go to L.A.” and that he might use his 2019 free agency as a leverage to force the Spurs to let him go. The former NBA Finals MVP hails from Los Angeles and played high school basketball at Canyon Springs in Moreno Valley, California, and Martin Luther King in Riverside, California.
However, Deveney noted that there are factors that could cause difficulties in the potential trade. First, San Antonio may offer Leonard the $200 million supermax contract extension to convince him to stay. The extension is reportedly not a given since his health has become an issue because he only played nine games this season.
Another factor is the Lakers’ willingness to give up one or a couple of their young stars, namely Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma. According to NBC Sports‘ Pro Basketball Talk, the Spurs are likely to ask for a package including “at least some combination” of the three young players.
While some analysts think that waiting for Leonard to become a free agent next year would save the Lakers their future All-Stars, Deveney said that there is “some danger” to that route as the team already experienced during their ongoing Paul George pursuit.
George was sure into moving to Los Angeles at this time last year as he told the media about his plan to join the Lakers as soon as he becomes a free agent in 2018. As it turned out, the Indiana Pacers went on to trade him to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and now George is saying that he wants to stick with OKC in this summer’s free agency.
It remains to be seen how huge of an impact this coming offseason would be for the Lakers, but the team’s master plan appears to be slowly getting unveiled. While signing two max salary free agents in the next two summers is still in the plan, “landing Leonard through a trade now will be the priority,” Deveney said.