If recent NBA rumors are to be believed, Kawhi Leonard wants to join the Los Angeles Lakers, but the San Antonio Spurs aren't interested in trading the disgruntled wingman to the Lakers, or to any other Western Conference rival for that matter. But with the possibility of landing LeBron James as a free agent in mind, the Lakers are reportedly under a lot of pressure to acquire Leonard, not only for the sake of improving the team significantly but also to lure James over from Cleveland.
Earlier on Wednesday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Brian Windhorst, and Ramona Shelburne reported that the Los Angeles Lakers are in a bit of a time crunch, as there's a "race" to make a move for Leonard before Friday, which is James' last day to decide on whether he wants to enter free agency or not. Making things even more urgent is the possibility that Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George is "no longer assured" of joining the hometown Lakers.
Citing league sources, the three ESPN writers and NBA insiders noted that the Los Angeles Lakers are not among the top contenders in the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes, as the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Los Angeles Clippers are the teams that have reportedly made offers to the Spurs in hopes of acquiring the 26-year-old forward/guard. Aside from reports that the Lakers weren't able to make much headway when speaking to the Spurs about Leonard, separate rumors from USA Today's Sam Amick suggested last week that San Antonio is only entertaining talks with Eastern Conference teams like the aforementioned Celtics, Cavs, and 76ers.
Even with those rumors in mind, as well as the Spurs supposedly "shutting the doors" on the Lakers during recent talks, ESPN's sources stressed that San Antonio hasn't "ruled out sending Leonard to any destination." That could mean the Lakers might have a chance after all, and as ESPN suggested, having to trade some sort of combination of past and future first-round picks. Furthermore, the team has reportedly shown interest in acquiring a future first-round pick which they can use as a "sweetener" for a prospective trade.Commenting on the possibility of the Los Angeles Lakers acquiring Kawhi Leonard via trade, Bleacher Report opined that the Celtics and 76ers might have the upper hand, as both teams have more flexibility in terms of having both quality youngsters and veterans to include in possible trade packages. As such, acquiring a future first-round pick could be vital to the Lakers' chances of trading for Leonard, though as Bleacher Report noted, dealing Lonzo Ball to the Spurs as part of a package for Kawhi might not be plausible, as it's "hard to imagine [coach] Gregg Popovich would willingly take on the Ball family circus."
Regardless of whom the Los Angeles Lakers send to the San Antonio Spurs to get Kawhi Leonard, Bleacher Report stressed that the stakes to do so indeed appear high, as a failure to trade for Leonard coupled with Paul George's potential decision to stay in Oklahoma City could greatly reduce their chances of signing LeBron James.