Posted on June 28, 2018, by Travis Pulver
The free agency period this year was supposed to be focused on LeBron James with the world waiting to see where he would take his considerable talents to next. In a way, it still is, but James is not the most important person in play. That honor belongs to a potential future teammate—Kawhi Leonard.
At first, the San Antonio Spurs appeared to be determined to hold onto their superstar. But that determination seems to have been short-lived. The Spurs are listening to offers for Leonard and appear to be ready to move on from him—which is why he is the most important player in the NBA right now
Yes, even more than James since whether the Lakers can pull off a trade for Leonard could determine whether James signs with them. He has burned some bridges in Cleveland, so he may not have much of a choice. But it would be shocking to see James go anywhere other than a potential contender.
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Just adding James would not make the Lakers a contender next season. It would almost be a lateral move for James.
So, if Leonard goes to the Lakers, James will follow, and we will have another super team to watch battle it out with the Golden State Warriors for supremacy in the Western Conference. If he doesn’t, there is no telling where James will go. He could still go to the Lakers, but that is doubtful. Houston would be the most likely Plan B. The 76ers would be another option.
But the power doesn’t really reside with Leonard. The power rests completely with the Spurs front office. They will undoubtedly take the best deal offered. But there was a strong reluctance to strengthen another Western Conference team. Of course, if the Lakers offer more, conference affiliation will not matter.
Philadelphia is expected to enter the race and possibly offer Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and a future first-round pick. But the focus of the attention has been on the Celtics and the Lakers. If the Spurs can get an offer they can live with, it sounds like they could go with the Celtics in order to get Leonard out of the West.
But the Celtics appear to be unwilling to meet the high price tag of the Spurs for what could ultimately be a one-year rental. San Antonio wouldn’t mind getting Jayson Tatum and/or Jaylen Brown, but the Celtics aren’t expected to put either on the table.
That would leave the Lakers. Their trade package is rumored to include Brandon Ingram and a future first-round pick. But San Antonio is going to want more than a single player right now. It’s understandable for the Lakers to want to hold onto their guys now. But if executing a trade for Leonard can land LeBron James– do it.
It’s that easy.
Just to complicate matters a little more— it appears that Leonard may have contacted James to talk about playing together. But if it happens in LA as everyone expects, Leonard may have a problem—at least according to Stephen A. Smith:
I’m hearing that Kawhi Leonard isn’t that enamored with the thought of coming to L.A. with LeBron. Not because of LeBron himself the person or the basketball player, but because of the paparazzi-like atmosphere, he will ultimately create in L.A.
Kawhi ain’t built that way. Kawhi ain’t the type of player that wants to be a part of all of that. [Kawhi] just wants to grab his lunch pail, go to work, go home. That’s the kind of guy he is.
Smith also stated that this rumor could be just that—nothing more than a rumor. Leonard hasn’t been one to seek the spotlight or talk with the media more than he must. But why would he contact James about playing together if he didn’t want to be around all the hype?
Until something happens, we will not know what is true and what is a fabrication. Until something does, all eyes will be on Leonard and not that other guy.