The pool of available free agents is dwindling slowly but surely as the Lakers wait to see if Kawhi Leonard will join their team next year. That means that even if Leonard chooses to don the purple and gold, there won’t be many more players left to join him, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James on the 2019-20 Lakers roster.
The Lakers don’t seem to be concerned about that scenario, and the rest of the league isn’t particularly worried about their ability to figure it out, either. In an ESPN report about the gossip permeating through Sacramento Summer League, the takeaway was that filling in a roster around three superstars won’t be a problem for the Lakers:
So what complementary players would arguably the most fearsome star trio in NBA history need around them?
”It doesn’t matter,” one assistant coach said of who else the Lakers sign if they get Leonard.
The triumvirate of Leonard, James, and Davis would be arguably the most talented ever assembled in modern NBA history. New Laker Jared Dudley has already likened it to the Miami Heat Big Three “on steroids”. Collectively, the trio has combined for 24 All-Star appearances and 21 All-NBA selections. There really is no historical equivalent for how much firepower the three players have together.
Positionally, the three could all play next to one another, and James has assured Leonard that there will be no overlap in terms of style of play as he will willingly take a backseat to the 2019 NBA champion. James and Leonard have dazzled in the postseason as well, combining for five titles and five NBA Finals MVPs.
But therein lies an important question. Given that Leonard already won a title in Toronto last year and the Raptors are able to bring back all of their core players next season, it may not make sense for Leonard to move to another team when Toronto is already championship-ready.
This topic was also discussed at Summer League, and an anonymous executive believes that the Lakers still present a preferable alternative to the Raptors:
Said another scout: “Let’s be honest, everyone knows that if the Warriors were healthy, they would have won. So is he sure if he comes back that he would have a chance to win it with [Toronto]?
”If I’m him, I’m going to the Lakers.”
Toronto absolutely benefited from some injury luck to win the finals, but they would be the favorites to defend the Eastern Conference crown with Leonard. Still, the Raptors had some nervy moments en route to the East title, including going seven games against the reloaded Philadelphia 76ers and nearly falling down 3-0 in the conference finals to the Bucks. It’s hard to say they would be overwhelming favorites to repeat in the East even with Leonard around, while the potential dynamism of that Lakers big three is hard to ignore.
Unfortunately, that Lakers lineup remains nebulous while this free agency decision drags along. The important thing is that it won’t really matter which names fill out the roster so long as it includes Kawhi Leonard.