Since the 2018 NBA offseason, Kawhi Leonard has been frequently linked to his hometown team, the Los Angeles Lakers. When he demanded a trade from the San Antonio Spurs, Leonard reportedly informed interested teams that he plans to sign with the Lakers when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next July. Despite having enough trade assets to engage in a blockbuster deal with the Spurs, Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka decided not to make a move last summer, believing that Leonard will be joining the team the following offseason.
Unfortunately, it seems like the Lakers’ front office made the same mistake they did when they passed on trading for Paul George in the summer of 2017. Multiple reports are surfacing that Kawhi Leonard is not interested in signing with the Lakers but with the other team situated in Los Angeles – the Los Angeles Clippers. According to Maurice Robb of Bleacher Report, Leonard “wants to beat” LeBron James than become his teammate.
“The three-time All-Star is a Los Angeles native, so naturally, there’s a lot of speculation that he will not only choose to go home but join up with King James on the Lakers. Leonard and James would be a stellar team-up in the new era of NBA superteams, but the two-time Defensive Player of the Year is built differently. He seemingly has no desire to join James; he wants to beat him. That’s why the Clippers are favored to land him with the cap space that they have.”
LeBron James apparently told soon-to-be NBA free agent Kawhi Leonard "we’ll be in touch" after the Lakers lost to the Raptors. But could the Lakers sign Leonard this summer? https://t.co/XrP1QbuQMQ pic.twitter.com/7bWECETAm4— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) March 17, 2019
Kawhi Leonard will undeniably be an incredible addition to the Lakers, giving them a very reliable second scoring option next to LeBron James. This season, the 27-year-old small forward is averaging 27.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.8 steals on 49.7 percent shooting from the field and 36.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Aside from being an offensive threat, the Lakers could also task Leonard to guard the opposing team’s best player.
Unfortunately, Kawhi Leonard doesn’t seem to be interested in spending his prime playing under the shadow of the best basketball player on the planet. At this point in his NBA career, Leonard surely wants to be on a playoff team where he can still be the main man. The Clippers currently have most of the qualities Leonard is looking for a team.
Despite losing all their “Big Three,” the Clippers remain competitive in the 2018-19 NBA season and are currently occupying the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. After giving Kawhi Leonard a max contract, the Clippers will still have the salary cap flexibility to chase the likes of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, and Kemba Walker in the 2019 NBA free agency.