Amid all the rumors surrounding potential free agent signings like LeBron James and Paul George, the Kawhi Leonard saga remains a key point of interest during the current NBA offseason. With numerous reports suggesting that the San Antonio Spurs superstar has been wanting out of the team for quite some time, it’s no surprise that a lot of NBA teams have been mentioned as potential trade partners. The latest rumors, however, suggest that Leonard indeed wants to leave the Spurs, and as far as his personal preferences are concerned, there is one team he would like to be traded to in particular – the Los Angeles Lakers.
On Friday, ESPN’s Chris Haynes and the San Antonio Express-News‘ Jabari Young posted similar tweets, citing league sources as they wrote that Leonard “wants out” of the Spurs after a chaotic 2017-18 season where he was limited to just nine games. In a subsequent tweet cited by CBS Sports, Haynes added that Leonard feels “betrayed” by Spurs management and is okay with missing out on the so-called “super-max” contract only San Antonio could offer – a deal that would pay him $219 million over five years.
These posts were followed up just minutes later when ESPN’s senior NBA insider, Adrian Wojnarowski, cited league sources in a tweet that suggested Los Angeles is Kawhi Leonard’s preferred trade destination, with the Lakers specifically standing out as opposed to their intercity rivals, the Clippers.
Such rumors have been swirling for months as Leonard struggled through injury woes and alleged locker room turmoil for most of the 2017-18 NBA season, choosing to sit out and rehab his quad injury despite having been cleared to play. With Leonard in better health, there’s a solid chance of him regaining the form that made him one of the NBA’s most versatile players in previous seasons, and becoming a key offseason pickup if he gets traded elsewhere. But who will the Lakers possibly give up if they indeed end up trading for Kawhi?
Writing for ESPN earlier this week, Kevin Pelton theorized that the Los Angeles Lakers might have to give up one of their prized No. 2 overall picks from recent years — Brandon Ingram or Lonzo Ball — to the Spurs, with Ball being the more attractive option in terms of salary cap flexibility. The caveat in this hypothetical scenario would be the Spurs taking on aging veteran Luol Deng, who is entering the third year of a four-year, $72 million contract, but played only one game in the 2017-18 NBA season, according to his Basketball-Reference player page.
At the moment, there are still a lot of moving parts, and the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t the only team that could acquire Kawhi Leonard via trade. As stated by Wojnarowski in a subsequent tweet on Friday afternoon, there’s also the possibility of Kawhi remaining a Spur, as his camp had “shown interest” in the super-max contract. With the offseason having just recently started, fans will likely be paying closer attention to Leonard’s situation as different teams present their offers in hopes of acquiring the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.