San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard remains as one of the hottest commodities on the trade market this offseason. Though the Spurs are still hoping to fix their relationship with Leonard, the disgruntled forward looked determined to leave the team, forcing San Antonio to entertain offers from other NBA teams. One of the top suitors of Leonard is the Los Angeles Lakers.
When the 2018 offseason started, Kawhi Leonard told the Spurs that he preferred to be traded to the Lakers and informed other interested teams that he intends to sign with the Purple and Gold as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019. After acquiring LeBron James, the Lakers are expected to go after Leonard next. Unfortunately, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the Spurs are receiving “underwhelming” offers from the Lakers.
“With LeBron officially agreeing to sign with the Lakers, it’ll be fascinating to monitor what type of leverage the Spurs can create for Kawhi Leonard, who still desires to play for the Lakers, according to multiple league sources—all of whom say offers to the Spurs have been underwhelming. One executive said the proposed packages have gotten worse with each round of negotiations, while another said they’re flat-out unacceptable.”
In most NBA trade rumors linking Kawhi Leonard to Los Angeles, the Lakers are expected to offer a trade package including at least one of Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma. ESPN‘s Stephen A. Smith (h/t Lakers Nation) recently reported that the Lakers said that Kuzma is “off-limits.” They are also not willing to give up three first-round picks, knowing that they could acquire Kawhi Leonard next summer.
When they acquired LeBron James, the Lakers signed Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Rajon Rondo to a one-year deal to keep their salary cap flexibility in the following offseason. This is a strong message for the Spurs that if they don’t send Leonard to Los Angeles this summer, they have enough salary cap space to acquire him without giving up valuable assets in 2019 free agency.
However, the Lakers are not the only team who are unlikely to give up “Godfather” offer to the Spurs for Leonard. Despite having a strong interest, the Boston Celtics are reportedly not willing to trade Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown for Leonard, while the Philadelphia 76ers refused to include Markelle Fultz in the trade package offered to the Spurs. Aside from his previous injury, the Celtics and the Sixers must be aware that Leonard could only be a one-year rental.
Now that the Golden State Warriors acquired DeMarcus Cousins, the Lakers have more reason to add Leonard to their team. However, Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson could be playing mind games with the Spurs to prevent the team from giving up too many assets for the disgruntled superstar.