As soon as news dropped that Kawhi Leonard wants out of San Antonio and would prefer to go to Los Angeles, the entirety of the Lakers fan base began envisioning the ways Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka could attempt to swindle the Spurs. It’s just not that easy, though.
There’s some logic in that line of thinking. Leonard preferring the Lakers might give them some leverage in trade negotiations, especially if he or his camp threatens any non-Lakers team that he wouldn’t re-sign next season if they do trade for him.
As we saw with Paul George, though, spurned teams aren’t always all that interested in helping their soon-to-be former faces of the franchise get to their preferred destination.
Then, the tweets started coming in about all the teams that could ruin #KawhiLAonard (Editor’s Note: I’m sorry he’s like this).
First, there was the Celtics being involved in any trade situation. Ah, a tradition unlike any other.
If Kawhi Leonard does become available in trade talks, the Boston Celtics will be interested in probing the Spurs about a deal, league sources tell ESPN. Boston inquired about a trade prior to the February deadline, sources said.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 15, 2018
As @wojespn reported, Boston's February inquiries didn't go anywhere. But Boston's interest in Kawhi hasn't changed. Plus: Danny Ainge vs. RC Buford in trade talks is a clash of the NBA titans. https://t.co/aqtgsWexhv— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixYS) June 15, 2018
The other team in Los Angeles might get involved, and Jerry West is bold enough to do it.
Sources: So far, Leonard has expressed nothing directly to Spurs about future. Lakers and Clippers interest Leonard -- and both teams would move quickly to assemble packages to acquire Leonard. Spurs won't rush. Leonard and his camp had shown interest in $219M super max deal.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 15, 2018
The New York Knicks are also interested because of course they are (though their cupboard is a little more bare than others in this group).
There are more than a few teams who can offer a better package to San Antonio for Kawhi than the Knicks can (assuming they don’t include Porzingis), but people close to Leonard have expressed a desire for Leonard to play in New York, per sources. https://t.co/CTs0ISkKXv— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) June 15, 2018
And the Kings? We might laugh at the possibility, but this is probably the only way they can land a bonafide superstar outside of getting lucky in the draft. Would that be worth risking the number two pick in a fairly loaded draft for what could potentially be only a year of Kawhi is another question altogether, but this asset is pretty tough to beat.
Another team to watch in the Kawhi sweepstakes: Sacramento. Kings have talked to teams about the No. 2 pick, per sources, and desperately want an established star.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixYS) June 15, 2018
The Kings giving up a top two pick only to have the player they traded for sign with the Lakers a year later anyway would be pretty perfectly Kings.
None of this is to say that the Lakers are now in any more jeopardy of missing out on Leonard than they’ve ever been, but only to point out to everyone how many teams are going to be interested in the services of someone as talented as he is.
The Lakers find themselves in a very similar situation to where they were with George a season ago. Do they want to give up assets for a guy who seems to want to sign with them a year later anyway, or do they risk him getting traded to a destination he might enjoy enough to rethink that desire over the course of next season? It’s a tough question, but one they must answer, and probably sooner rather than later, as draft picks that might be used in any trade will be a specific player instead of an intangible mystery asset in less than a week.