The Lakers have unsurprisingly and excitingly entered the Kawhi Leonard trade sweepstakes on Friday afternoon, hopeful they’ll acquire the All-Star forward this summer.
Upon hearing the breaking news that Leonard wants out of San Antonio, the Lakers should do whatever it takes to pull off a blockbuster trade for the 26-year-old. And while the message is one of an estranged and unhappy star player, now is the time for Magic Johnson to do everything possible to make it happen.
The Lakers under a new team president and new general manager could deliver the first surprise of the offseason. The problem, however, is that they probably don’t have much to offer in a trade for Leonard, unless they are perfectly okay giving up their promising talent.
According to a new report, Leonard requested a trade from the Spurs, and his preferred destination is to the Lakers. So there you have it. Just recently, a string of rumors surfaced that he wanted to come home to Southern California. So, in this sense, one can understand why the Lakers are reportedly his preferable choice, as he’s unworried about having to fill the void within a franchise seeking a household name.
To tell the truth, the Lakers embody the essence of what it is to win championships and, in order for them to regain grandeur that was lost, Magic has to bring aboard at least two star players. It’ll be interesting to see if the Lakers can agree to a deal with a handshake in the upcoming weeks, even when it appears to be a longshot.
Leonard, after all, turns the spotlight on LA and away from San Antonio. Rather than reconcile his differences with the Spurs, he may benefit greatly from a change of scenery in a town where he’d fit the mold of what the Lakers want. For a player who is fine with turning down a super-max contract, money isn’t everything, nor does it buy him happiness. He’s eligible to receive a five-year, $219 million deal, and instead he’s reluctant to stay in San Antonio. But from what we’re hearing, he’d be more than delighted to put on a purple and gold jersey by next season.
The noise about Leonard migrating to California has been rampant and, although he was supposed to be a Spurs lifer, he’s truly an LA homer. If the Lakers want to bring the Cali-born star home, trading in their future is the only option. Without hesitation, or even consideration, Johnson and his partner, Rob Pelinka should make a trade proposal to the Spurs for Leonard.
Either that would be a yes or no. Knowingly, the Spurs may not be willing to listen or express interest in acquiring the Lakers current big three. Months ago, however, Johnson divulged that anybody on the roster was tradeable if it benefited the organization. The whole purpose of team personnel making a mid-season that involved Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson was to create room for two max deals.
The other piece of news is that the Lakers are inevitably pursuing a superstar and could wait another year until Leonard becomes a free agent and then sign him to a large contract. This summer, they can try their hardest and make an offer the Spurs can’t refuse if they don’t want to lose out on him. This is a deal the Lakers have to make now. This is not the time to sit back and wait until next season’s trade deadline, or until next summer.
Let’s say Leonard is traded to Boston and shows a change of heart after one season with a contending Celtics team. Then what? Well, the Lakers would lose out in the bid for Kawhi. But the Spurs are not open to make any offers to the Lakers. First and foremost is that Johnson and Pelinka have to figure out how to get around the catch 22, and leave the doubters in stunned silence.
Leonard, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, was an incredibly important player for the Spurs and, if he switches jerseys, he can very well become instrumental to the Lakers. He’s one of the reasons the Spurs won a champion in 2014. He plays relentless defense that he can shut down his individual opponent, dislodge the ball with his timely hands and turn a steal into an easy bucket.
If Leonard somehow lands on the Lakers this summer, he’d fit in perfectly with a young group of players who like to get out and run. If Leonard comes back home, free agents Paul George and LeBron James would come to Hollywood as well. A new big three in LA would have every NBA team trembling with fear.
Keep in mind, the Spurs will entertain trade talks for Leonard. And if the Lakers want him bad enough, they have to give the Spurs everything to acquire the one player who could help the Lakers take part in a tight race against the Warriors next season.
Whatever it takes, the Lakers are going to find one way or another to get him now and bring him back home.