Ever since news broke that Kawhi Leonard a) wanted the San Antonio Spurs to trade him and b) that the Los Angeles Lakers were his preferred destination, fans and the media have been throwing out theoretical trade packages (like this one) that include various combinations of the Lakers’ young players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.
Well, according to the latest report, that might be premature, because the Spurs are leaking that there are two things they don’t want: Lonzo Ball, or any trade with the Lakers:
Indiana had little interest in Paul George trade w/ Lakers -- and that'll be case for Spurs too. Boston gives Spurs best building blocks of assets -- one of young forwards (likely Jaylen Brown), its own 18 pick/19 protected Kings pick, etc. Lonzo to Spurs? Don't hold your breath.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 15, 2018
Could Boston offer a better package of options than the Lakers? Yes. Will they? The answer isn’t clear, as Woj’s own reporting phrases it as “far less likely” the Celtics re-engage after talks broke off around the last trade deadline.
That said, all of that could be media posturing, as could this latest report that the Spurs don’t want to trade Leonard to the Lakers.
Keep this in mind: What’s the best way for the Spurs to get the Lakers to up their trade package? By saying they don’t want to trade with them and help create another super team in the west, which seems to be exactly what they’re leaking.
TL;DR: Basically all of this might mean nothing and just be two sides trying to use strategic leaks to get what they want.
The one part of this that feels very real is that Ball heading to the Spurs feels very unlikely. Gregg Popovich might retire on the spot at the prospect of having to deal with LaVar Ball, and the noise that surrounds the reality-show-starring family is about as un-Spursian as it gets, a sentiment Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports echoed and expanded upon:
San Antonio has zero interest in Lonzo Ball — or, more accurately, the circus that Ball brings with him — but a Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, draft-pick(s) deal (with Luol Deng tossed in to make the money work) is compelling, particularly if other teams, wary of Leonard walking in 2019, don’t go all-in with offers.
As Mannix somewhat noted, it would be disingenuous to suggest that Ball and his family are all the Lakers have to offer. Ingram looks like he could be a future star (and possibly importantly, plays the same position as Leonard) while Kuzma and Hart look like they’ll at the very least be starting caliber players on a title team at some point.
Maybe that isn’t as good as what Boston will offer, and maybe the Lakers aren’t willing to (or shouldn’t) offer that much, but they have far more to give than just Ball, should they see the need.
With all that in mind, unless Popovich and the Spurs are petty enough to trade Leonard somewhere just because it isn’t the Lakers or in the West (shouts to the Indiana Pacers), then the Lakers could very much still be in play in spite of this report. They just may have to pay a steep price to get Leonard, which isn’t that surprising anyway.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.