Thanks in large part to the past few NBA Drafts, the Los Angeles Lakers have assembled a young and promising nucleus, with guards Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart and forwards Kyle Kuzma, Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram all below the age of 25, and either starting or playing key roles off the bench for the team. While most teams would want to hang on to those players as they continue to improve, a new report suggests that the Lakers might be willing to entertain offers and trade at least one of them, assuming the offer is too good to pass up.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers have reportedly been telling other teams that none of their players are “untouchable,” meaning even their coveted young stars might be placed on the trading block if the perfect opportunity arises. This is a subject that Lakers executives, including president of basketball operations Earvin “Magic” Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have been silent about, with Johnson, in particular, refusing to comment on such matters during an April press conference.
Although most NBA rumors are suggesting that the Los Angeles Lakers will focus on the free agent market, where LeBron James and Paul George are believed to be among the team’s top targets, one star player who’s been attached to actual Lakers trade rumors is San Antonio Spurs wingman Kawhi Leonard, who played only nine games in the 2017-18 NBA season due to a right quad injury. But while Leonard is a Los Angeles native who may or may not be inclined to play for his hometown team in 2018-19, a recent report from Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer suggested that the Spurs are looking for a “grand-slam offer,” and nothing less, if they were to trade their best player to another team.
It’s not clear what kind of offer would be good enough the Spurs to part ways with Leonard, who has allegedly been unhappy with the team for quite some time. But ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith speculated in April that the Lakers would have the best shot at Leonard if they traded Lonzo Ball, who had an uneven, but productive rookie year at point guard, and either Julius Randle or Brandon Ingram, according to the Daily Express. The latter two players had career years in 2017-18, with Ingram posting significantly better numbers compared to his rookie season, and Randle, who enters restricted free agency this summer, further solidifying his place as starting power forward.
On a similar note, an April op-ed, also from the Los Angeles Times, stressed that the Lakers, who went 35-47 in 2017-18 with their young core in place, need a tried and tested veteran like Leonard, given that his presence could help convince Paul George, or maybe even LeBron James, to sign a free agent deal with the team. However, this week’s report from the Times also speculated that the Lakers might still want to keep their young stars around, as they could instead be what the improving team needs to lure George, James, or any other “high-end” free agents to Los Angeles.