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What if the Lakers don’t win the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes?

The Lakers seem to like their chances of landing Kawhi Leonard, but they could be in trouble if they don’t.

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2019 NBA Finals - Toronto Raptors v Golden State Warriors Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

If we’re to believe all of the rumors — both sourced and questionably sourced — over the last few days, the Los Angeles Lakers are in serious contention for two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.

If Leonard ultimately decides to team up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in Los Angeles, the Lakers will have the most dominant big three in the NBA, and arguably one of the greatest big threes the league has ever seen.

However, if he opts to sign with the LA Clippers or re-sign with the Toronto Raptors, the Lakers could be in serious trouble.

A big part of the risk in waiting for Leonard to make his decision was the possibility of second and third-tier free agents flying off of the board within the first few days of free agency. As expected, that’s been the case and with each passing hour, their options are only getting more slim.

For context, here are the (subjective) five-best free agents available by position:

Best available free agents

Rajon Rondo Danny Green Marcus Morris JaMychal Green DeMarcus Cousins
Alex Caruso* Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Kelly Oubre Jr.* Jabari Parker JaVale McGee
Tyus Jones* Lance Stephenson Thabo Sefolosha Markieff Morris Ivica Zubac*
T.J. McConnell Iman Shumpert Wilson Chandler Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Kenneth Faried
Quinn Cook Justin Holiday Stanley Johnson Jared Dudley Joakim Noah
*Indicates the player is a restricted free agent

There are still a few quality guys left on the market worth throwing money at and the Lakers will have plenty if they don’t sign Leonard — $32 million to be exact.

We’re going to do a little exercise where we think up the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Lakers if they whiff on Leonard. The purpose of this exercise is to put into perspective how good things can still be, and how bad they can get. If all goes well, the outcome will be somewhere in between.


The best-case scenario for the Lakers — outside of signing Kawhi Leonard — is to use the money on a surefire starting guard. Unfortunately, there are very few left on the market, so Los Angeles might have to once again look at the trade market.

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that there is still a real possibility the Miami Heat look to trade veteran point guard Goran Dragic in an effort to get dodge the hard cap, which would allow them to open up some cap space, use their non-taxpayer mid level-exception and, most importantly, avoid the luxury tax. It’s for all of those reasons that he likely wouldn’t cost the Lakers much.

If the Lakers can offer Talen Horton-Tucker and a second-round pick in exchange for Dragic and his $19.2 million contract, that would be a home run for them. Is Dragic worth the $19.2 million he’ll be paid this upcoming season? Maybe not, but the gap between him and the best available point guard in free agency is the size of an island.

Plus, trading for Dragic would leave the Lakers with roughly $12 million in cap space, enough to make a competitive offer to one of Danny Green or Marcus Morris, two players that would help Los Angeles in a big way. They’d also have the room exception worth $4.72 million, which could be enough to bring back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for another season, seeing as there’s little-to-no market for him.

Dragic, Danny Green, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and a veteran’s minimum center like JaVale McGee is a playoff team. Add Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo and a buyout candidate in Andre Iguodala, and you have the makings of a legitimate title contender in the Western Conference.


Remember what the Lakers did after they signed LeBron James last summer? Yeah, that’s the worst-case scenario.

The Lakers need shooting wherever they can find it and they’re not going to get it by bringing back guys like Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson in significant roles. There’s also the fear that they might value big names after striking out on Kawhi Leonard, making the signing of a beat up DeMarcus Cousins and a washed up Carmelo Anthony all the more likely.

Luckily, the worst-case scenario is the least likely scenario given the steps the Lakers have taken over the last few weeks. It seems as though the front office knows the important of surrounding James and Davis with the appropriate supporting cast — i.e. shooters — after last season, and even though the players they’ll have to choose from aren’t all that great, there’s some reason for optimism that Rob Pelinka and Co. will pull it all together and avoid the darkest timeline, even if Leonard isn’t inbound. Hopefully, this just illustrates that the process may be harder than it sounds.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. Here is a list of every free agent credibly connected to the Lakers so far.

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