Kawhi Leonard may Not Join Lakers due to LeBron James

kawhi-leonard-clippersESPN’s Stephen A. Smith recently reported that Kawhi Leonard was hesitant about joining the LA Lakers in free agency next season. The alleged reason why is that LeBron James is already there.

Leonard, who became unhappy with the San Antonio Spurs last season, named an LA team (Lakers or Clippers) as his top trade destination. However, the Spurs instead shipped him to the Toronto Raptors in a deal for DeMar DeRozan.

Many speculated that Leonard would eventually leave San Antonio for the Lakers in the 2019 offseason if he wasn’t traded. After all, this would allow him to form a powerful duo with James.

But now it’s unclear where he’ll go based on Smith’s report. Smith isn’t the only one who wonders if the Lakers are now off the table for Leonard. Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania also recently questioned where the All-Star forward will go, which you can read about below.

Leonard Not Interested in Joining Super Team

Appearing on The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Charania sounded skeptical on which uniform Kawhi Leonard will be playing in next season. Here’s what Charania said on The Herd:

kawhi-leonard-cavs-1“One thing that’s been made abundantly clear. I’m going to stress this. There’s no guarantee if Kawhi Leonard hits the market next summer that he’s going to sign with the Lakers, period. I think his options have broadened a little bit, just inside L.A. There’s another team, obviously, in L.A. I think he’d be very much open to the Clippers.

“And there’s a belief around the league that if the Sixers came hard, that there could be a potential there for him potentially being there long-term.

“I don’t think there’s much interest in the Boston Celtics scenario for him.

“Around Kawhi, what’s been made abundantly clear is there’s not an interest to go join a super team. I don’t think he’s jumping for joy that LeBron James is in LA with the Lakers. If anything, that’s going to make him look maybe more toward the Clippers.

“Because this is a guy that won Finals MVP against LeBron James. You think he’s amped up and wants to join LeBron now? I think that’s been overstated, and the Spurs are beginning to realize that and beginning to realize that we might have a broadened market for him.”

Where will Leonard End Up?

When Leonard said that he wanted to be in LA, many automatically assumed that he meant the Lakers. But the current Raptors forward also seems interested in joining the Clippers too.

kawhi-leonard-rockets-game-6This means that the Clippers might try extra hard to pursue him in the summer, especially since they’ll have the necessary cap space. The Philadelphia 76ers, who have a bevy of young talent, are also in play for Leonard.

There’s even the possibility that the Raptors are able to retain Leonard past the 2019 season. After all, the OKC Thunder were able to convince Paul George to re-sign for a 4-year deal. Before this, George seemed adamant about playing for the Lakers.

In any case, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Leonard in the 2019 offseason.

Clippers Trade Package for Kawhi Leonard Revealed

kawhi-leonard-clippersSan Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard wants to return to his hometown Los Angeles after requesting a trade. Many initial rumors centered on the Lakers, which have plenty of young players to offer. But the L.A. Clippers have also jumped into the mix and are already offering a trade package.

According to the L.A. Times’ Tania Ganguli, the Clippers are willing to give Tobias Harris and either the 12th or 13th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

It’s unclear if this is enough to land a player of Leonard’s caliber. He was the 2014 NBA Finals MVP and is arguably the league’s best two-way player when healthy. Meanwhile, the Clippers are only offering a quality starter and a late lottery selection for an elite player.

Reports have suggested that San Antonio doesn’t want to trade Leonard to a Western Conference team. But odds are that they’ll take the best deal, especially if it’s to a (currently) non-contending team like the Clippers or Lakers.

Clippers Concerned about Leonard’s Injury

Kawhi Leonard only played in nine games last season due to a mysterious quadriceps injury. San Antonio and their medical staff’s handling of the injury is why he wants to leave.

But according to CBS Sports, neither the Clippers nor Lakers are convinced that Leonard is over the injury. He suffered a deep thigh bruise in the 2016-17 season, which has had complications ever since. One medical opinion suggests that the bruise may have atrophied and is affecting other tendons in the leg.

Here’s more from CBS:

kawhi-leonard-clippers-3“Neither the Lakers nor Clippers have had trade discussions with the Spurs, as both teams have concerns about the severity of Leonard’s injury. He spent several months away from the team while rehabbing, which led to public barbs from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich about Leonard’s absence — an unusual move for the Spurs.

“While the Lakers are open to trading any player on their roster, how much they are willing to give up depends on their confidence in his health.”

The Lakers have attractive young pieces like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma. But San Antonio would likely want two of these players in the Leonard trade. Making such a deal would signal the Spurs’ desire for a rebuild.

The Clippers don’t have the same caliber of young players as L.A. But they potentially have more to offer when looking at their roster and the 12th and 13th first-round picks.

Clippers could Immediately Become Title Contenders

kawhi-leonard-clippers-2The Clippers were surprisingly competitive last season after trading Chris Paul (offseason) and Blake Griffin (mid-season). They finished 42-40 and were in the playoff mix until the last couple weeks of the season.

Barring a trade, the team returns DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly, Avery Bradley, and Harris. Adding a piece like Leonard could instantly make L.A. a top team in the West.

The same could be true of the Lakers. Although they don’t have as many good veteran players, a year of improvement and adding Leonard could make them significantly better. Plus, the Lakers have enough cap space to make a future deal with Leonard work.