Recent days have seen the Los Angeles Lakers emerge as a surprise favorite to sign free agent forward Kawhi Leonard. Although most reports had pointed to Leonard signing with the Los Angeles Clippers or remaining with the Toronto Raptors, recent rumors suggest that the 2019 NBA Finals MVP could likely be wearing the purple and gold alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the coming season. On the other hand, the Lakers may need to come up with a solid contingency plan if their attempts to sign Leonard fall through.
In a report published Tuesday by SB Nation‘s Silver Screen and Roll, the outlet’s Christian Rivas wrote that the Lakers’ options in free agency are getting slimmer and slimmer as more second- and third-tier free agents find new teams or re-sign with their old ones. Although there are still some quality players aside from Leonard who remain unsigned, Rivas suggested that the best-case contingency plan for the Lakers would be to navigate the trade market and search for a “surefire” starting guard.
Detailing a potential trade the Lakers could work out if they can’t sign Kawhi Leonard, Rivas recommended that the team could acquire Miami Heat point guard Goran Dragic in exchange for 2019 second-round pick Talen Horton-Tucker and a future second-rounder. As noted, there have been rumors that the Heat are hoping to trade Dragic in order to free up some cap space and avoid paying the NBA’s luxury tax. With that in mind, Rivas pointed out that the veteran guard might be worth trading for, even with his lucrative contract in mind.
“Is Dragic worth the $19.2 million he’ll be paid this upcoming season? Maybe not, but the gap between him and the best available point guard in free agency is the size of an island,” the Silver Screen and Roll contributor wrote.
Should the Lakers successfully trade for Dragic, the team would be left with about $12 million to spend on free agents to round out their roster. Per Rivas, this would be enough money to pay for Toronto Raptors wingman Danny Green or Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris, who are two unrestricted free agents whom he believes would “help Los Angeles in a big way.” The Lakers would also be able to afford re-signing shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who, at this point, hasn’t received much interest from rival teams.
In addition to recommending a Goran Dragic trade as an insurance policy in case the Lakers can’t sign Leonard, Silver Screen and Roll‘s Rivas wrote about the possible worst-case scenario, which would be for Los Angeles to target free agents such as the “beat-up” DeMarcus Cousins and the “washed-up” Carmelo Anthony, both of whom are big names whose NBA careers have taken a downturn in recent years.