LeBron James is now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and rumors are running rampant regarding Kawhi Leonard and his desire to join him. Kawhi Leonard is focused on playing for the Lakers, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting via Twitter.
Kawhi Leonard has told those closest to him that he wants to play with LeBron James on the Lakers. A trade with the San Antonio Spurs must take place in order for Leonard's wish to come to fruition. While some doubt that the Spurs are willing to become trading partners with the Lakers, it may come down to which team offers the best return.
On paper, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia Sixers can offer a massive trade package for Kawhi Leonard. Both teams run the risk of losing Kawhi Leonard for nothing next summer. For that reason alone it is understandable that they do not want to mortgage their future. Leonard's free agency status puts the clamps on things for any team going forward.
The Spurs' asking price for Kawhi Leonard is yet to be known. It could take the majority of the Lakers' young talent to make a Kawhi Leonard trade work. There are some rumors surrounding what the Spurs counter-proposal for Leonard was to the Sixers. It was a staggering counter-offer in the tweet below that likely made the Sixers pause.At this point, the Los Angeles Lakers do not have the same talent on the roster as the Sixers or Celtics. What the Lakers have is some good young talent and LeBron James, which is attractive to Kawhi Leonard.
Kawhi Leonard is compelled to play with LeBron James, but even if the Spurs are willing to engage the Lakers about the parameters of a trade, things could get dicey. Leonard's homecoming may have to wait a year.
If the Spurs were to deal Kawhi Leonard to the Lakers there is a big expectation that Luol Deng's big contract would go to San Antonio. The Lakers would be forced to trade Deng versus waiving him in order to match Kawhi Leonard's incoming salary. Matching up the contracts is a complication in trade negotiations for Kawhi Leonard.
For Kawhi Leonard to get his wish and play with LeBron James, he would also have to be tied to one of the Spurs' bad contracts. That contract would likely be Patty Mills and the near $40 million he is owed.The Lakers were able to sign LeBron James to a four-year deal, according to ESPN. James will make $154 million. Just over $5 million is where the Lakers currently sit in terms of cap room with LeBron James joining the team. The Lakers can get further under the salary cap by waiving Luol Deng, which is their preference and renouncing the rights of Julius Randle. The Lakers would free up over $30 million in doing both moves.
If the Lakers were to trade for Kawhi Leonard, his contract would fit in well in their salary structure.
Going after Kawhi Leonard would cost the Lakers more than any other team. The Spurs know that Leonard wants to play with LeBron James. They stand nothing to gain by granting Kawhi Leonard his wish.
It may become increasingly clear that for Kawhi Leonard to join LeBron James on the Los Angles Lakers he will have to join the team as a free agent next summer. The only problem with that is the Lakers could be capped out next summer when Kawhi Leonard could truly get paid.