Kawhi Leonard has yet to make his final decision about where he will play next year, and reports indicate that LeBron James could end up being the deciding factor.
The recent NBA Finals MVP has reportedly finished meeting with both the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, and his meeting with the Toronto Raptors was expected to be completed on Tuesday. As Chris Broussard of Fox Sports reported on Twitter, any hopes that the Lakers may have of landing Leonard may rest on the shoulders of Magic Johnson and, perhaps more importantly, LeBron James.
Broussard noted that the Lakers are not known for having the most functional front office, with both the Clippers and Raptors holding advantages in this area, so any pitch for the Lakers would likely rely heavily on James. The former NBA MVP has been known to take a hands-on role in his team’s recruiting, and already said before the season ended that he would be as involved as needed in order to land the top free agents.
“I’ve never played fantasy basketball,” James told Howard Beck of Bleacher Report. “But I will be as active as I need to be for this franchise to get better. That’s why I came here. I came here to win. And obviously, we need to get better, as far as our personnel. We have an opportunity to get better. And there’s a lot of talent out there, and a lot of guys that can help our franchise. So I’ll be as active as I need to be for us to get better and go from there.”
Lakers’ hopes for Kawhi resting on his trust of Magic & LeBron because their front office is a concern, to say the least. Clippers & Raptors clear front office advantage— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 2, 2019
Several reports this week have pegged the Lakers as the frontrunner to land Kawhi Leonard, though the Clippers have been seen as the leader at points as well. It appears that the dynamic changed after the Lakers completed the long-anticipated trade for Anthony Davis and came out the other end with enough cap space to still land Leonard. Marc Stein of The New York Times reported on Twitter that the Lakers took the lead over the Clippers at that point.
“During the first four years after signing his max contract, Leonard will pocket an extra $11,414,000 by signing with the Lakers than he would signing with the Raptors.”— TheLakersReview (@TheLakersReview) July 2, 2019
(h/t to @terryfinisterre)https://t.co/zVWl7nmQ9S
The Los Angeles Lakers may also give Leonard the best chance to repeat as NBA champion, as the Lakers kick-started a rapid rebuild with the Davis trade. With a softening Western Conference after Kevin Durant bolted for the Brooklyn Nets, the Lakers could have an opportunity to contend immediately if they can land Leonard.