The Los Angeles Lakers have been interested in acquiring Kawhi Leonard since he demanded a trade from the San Antonio Spurs in the summer of 2018. Leonard may have succeeded to win an NBA championship title with the Raptors, but he’s still not giving them an assurance that he will re-sign when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next July. As of now, the reigning Finals MVP wants to keep all his options open, giving the Lakers another chance to pursue him in the 2019 NBA free agency.
After suffering a huge disappointment in the 2018-19 NBA season, the Lakers became more aggressive in surrounding LeBron James with quality players in the 2019 NBA offseason. Despite failing to secure a deal before the February NBA trade deadline, the Lakers recently reached an agreement with the New Orleans Pelicans to trade Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks for Anthony Davis. In a recent appearance on ESPN’s Get Up, which is currently posted on Twitter, LeBron James’ former teammate, Damon Jones, revealed that after the successful acquisition of Davis, a source told him that the Kawhi Leonard-to-Lakers scenario became a “strong possibility” this summer.
“Yes. After the AD trade on Saturday, I have a conversation with someone close to the situation that said that Kawhi Leonard is now in play for the Lakers. Now, it’s a lot of things that have to happen. The Lakers have to clear the cap space.”
Fred VanVleet says the Raptors have done everything they can to convince Kawhi Leonard to re-sign. But if he doesn't, VanVleet knows what they'll have to do. https://t.co/ekfgmfUtE6— USA TODAY NBA (@usatodaynba) June 17, 2019
The arrival of Anthony Davis has undeniably made the Lakers a more attractive destination for incoming free agent superstars. However, it also greatly affected the Lakers’ salary cap flexibility which is very important in their pursuit of Kawhi Leonard, who, according to Damon Jones, isn’t expected to take less than the max as an unrestricted free agent. On Twitter, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN explained that if the Davis-to-Lakers trade will be completed on July 6, Los Angeles will only have $23.7 million in salary cap space, assuming that “The Brow” declines to void his $4 million trade bonus.
Wojnarowski said that the Lakers could create $32.5 million in salary cap space if they waited until July 30 to make the deal official which is less likely to happen.
“If Pelicans and Lakers waited until July 30 to complete trade, Lakers could’ve had $32.5M in cap space — enough to pursue a max level free agent. By waiting 30 days, Lakers would be acting like a team over the cap and thus allowed to use 4th overall pick in draft as salary.”
With their current salary cap situation, it remains unknown if the Kawhi Leonard-to-Lakers scenario has a realistic chance of happening this summer. However, if Leonard is really interested in teaming up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers will surely do everything they can to create the salary cap space needed to bring him to Los Angeles.