The Los Angeles Lakers decided to pass on trading for Kawhi Leonard with the belief that they could sign him in the summer of 2019 as an unrestricted free agent. After being traded to the Toronto Raptors, Leonard reportedly has no interest in staying in Canada, heating up the speculations that he is heading to Los Angeles next offseason. However, deciding not to trade for Leonard may end up being a bad decision once again for the Purple and Gold.
Last offseason, Paul George also expressed his desire to join the Lakers, but after they refused to trade for him, he ended up re-signing on a four-year, $136.9 million contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The same thing could happen in their pursuit of Kawhi Leonard in 2019 free agency. According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, the Lakers could strengthen their chance of acquiring Leonard if they use a similar strategy they did to acquire LeBron James.
“Last year’s acquisition of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is represented by Paul and Klutch Sports, was a significant step in landing James in free agency. The Lakers had a full year to build a relationship with Paul and ultimately James—perhaps Ayres gets the team’s final roster spot and a chance to play center in some of the team’s smaller lineups. Maybe that’s why Leonard lands in Los Angeles before the start of the 2019-20 season. The Lakers have not signed Ayres to a contract beyond summer league, but that may be well worth keeping an eye on.”
To build a strong relationship with Kawhi Leonard, Pincus believes the Lakers may consider giving their final roster spot to summer league standout Jeff Ayres. The 31-year-old forward is represented by Mitch Frankel of Impact Sports Management, whose only client in the NBA is no other than Leonard. Ayres played a major role in the Lakers’ recent Las Vegas Summer League games.
Since being drafted in 2009, Ayres has played in four NBA teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, and the Los Angeles Clippers. With the Lakers’ having a logjam at frontcourt, Ayres isn’t expected to have a decent playing time if he earns a spot in Los Angeles. However, having him on the team will let the Lakers have a direct communication with Leonard’s agent, giving them a higher chance of adding another superstar to their team in the summer of 2019.
As of now, it’s early to talk about where Kawhi Leonard will be headed next offseason. However, the Lakers should start making a move if they don’t want to let another superstar slip from their hands like what happened with Paul George last summer.