Since the 2018 NBA offseason started, the Los Angeles Lakers emerged as one of the top suitors of Kawhi Leonard. The Lakers were aggressively pushing for a trade with the belief that Leonard’s acquisition would strengthen their chance of signing LeBron James in free agency.
However, even without Kawhi Leonard or any other superstar on their roster, LeBron James still decided to ink a four-year, $153.3 million deal with the Lakers. In an interview with Rachel Nichols of ESPN (h/t NESN), James revealed why he didn’t urge the Lakers to trade for Leonard.
“Because I love the young guys that they have, and I’m not trying to force my hand in no way, shape or form,” James said. “I believe (Lakers general manager) Rob (Pelinka) and (president of basketball operations) Magic (Johnson) and (owner) Jeanie (Buss) have done an unbelievable job of reshaping what the organization should be, keeping Dr. Buss’ dreams and what he was all about, to keep that going. I feel like they know what’s best for the team, and I wanted to be a piece to continue that motion of being back to a championship franchise where they should be.”
Before trading Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors, the San Antonio Spurs were demanding at least two of Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, and Lonzo Ball together with multiple future draft picks. However, Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka didn’t want to overspend for a player they can acquire next summer as an unrestricted free agent without giving up valuable assets.
Before pulling another blockbuster move, Johnson and Pelinka first want to see how their young core will perform playing alongside LeBron James. As of now, James is definitely aware of the superstar potentials of Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, and Lonzo Ball. One Lakers executive reportedly told Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report that they plan to create their own version of the Golden State Warriors’ “Super Death Lineup” featuring James, Ingram, Hart, Kuzma, and Ball.
Aside from the canceled Kawhi Leonard trade, LeBron James also defended the Lakers’ controversial signings in the recent free agency. After acquiring James, the Lakers added four role players — JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and Michael Beasley — whose fit with LeBron remains a big question. However, Johnson already said that James was properly consulted with every move they made this offseason.
LeBron James believes McGee, Rondo, Stephenson, and Beasley have what it takes to help the Lakers compete for the NBA championship title next season. As of now, it is still a big question how LeBron’s new squad can beat Western Conference powerhouse teams like the reigning NBA champions, Golden State Warriors, and the Houston Rockets. Still, anything is possible as long as the Lakers have the best basketball player on the planet in their roster.