As his San Antonio Spurs prepare for Game 3 of their first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors, Kawhi Leonard remains sidelined. He will not take to the court before the end of the postseason and could have already played his final game in San Antonio.
Dealing with what has now been a near year-long quad injury, there’s seemingly a rift between Leonard and the Spurs’ front office. It’s led to reports that other teams will look to trade for the former MVP candidate this coming summer.
We now have the name of one team. According to Sean Deveney of the Sporting News, the Los Angeles Lakers will look to trade for the former NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
“I think they (the Lakers) go in hard for Leonard once the season is over and once the dust settles in San Antonio,” one executive told Deveney. “(Leonard) wants to go to LA. There probably won’t be public demands on that, but he has leverage. He is going to be a free agent (in 2019). He’s an LA guy and he can just let teams know he won’t re-sign next year with anyone but the Lakers.”
It’s by now well known that the Lakers will have enough cash under the cap to add two max-contract players in free agency. While the team has been linked most to LeBron James and Paul George, Leonard himself makes a ton of sense for Los Angeles.
Set to count $20.1 million against the cap in 2018-19, adding Leonard wouldn’t necessarily change the Lakers’ plans in free agency. Contracts would have to nearly match in order for a deal of this ilk to be worked out. This would include the Lakers moving Luol Deng and his $18 million salary as a throw-in with the Spurs.
Though, it also means the team would have to part with youngster Brandon Ingram to make this worthwhile for San Antonio. That scenario could enable the Lakers to still be able to add two max-contract players once the summer comes calling.
The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers have also been linked to Leonard since reports of a rift between the star and his team surfaced. There’s no reason to believe other squads won’t join in the sweepstakes should Leonard ultimately be made available.