The NBA off-season, after a week of relative calmness following the Golden State Warriors’ third title in four years, went into full chaos mode on Friday when reports surfaced that San Antonio Spur Kawhi Leonard wanted to be traded with Los Angeles being his preferred destination.
As the dust has settled, the Lakers and Clippers, both of whom were certainly monitoring the situation from afar prior to Friday’s report, have been thrust into the spotlight.
However, according to Tania Ganguli of the LA Times, neither side has budged in recent days with concerns of Leonard’s long-term health being the main concern.
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.
There are multiple ways to take this information. On the surface, there are very real concerns about Leonard who missed what essentially amounted to a whole season with an injury that is unlike most injuries across the league.
Digging a little deeper, this is also a way for both the Lakers and Clippers to drive down the asking price for Leonard. As it stands, the Spurs hold the majority of the leverage in trade talks as Leonard has one more year left on his contract and the team does not need to move him.
From the Lakers and Clippers perspectives, offering even a shred of doubt that Leonard may not be the player he once was, whether it’s true or not, can go a long way in shaping trade talks.
There were also a handful more nuggets of info about the Lakers in the piece.
The star forward’s willingness to leave the Spurs became clear Friday morning, when the San Antonio Express News first reported he wants to be traded. According to sources not authorized to speak publicly, the Lakers have long been Leonard’s preferred destination, though the Clippers are among the teams he would consider.
This report mirrors one from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Friday. With Leonard due for a new contract with his current shoe deal, a move to a bigger market appears to be priority number one for the Finals MVP.
Leonard is also from California and attended San Diego State in college, another reason he’d prefer a move to Los Angeles.
Ganguli also tossed in a sentence about the Lakers’ willingness to move any player.
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.
A trade involving some of the top talent, namely Brandon Ingram or Lonzo Ball, would come with many caveats. It would likely not happen for Leonard until the Lakers had promises from Paul George and LeBron James to sign in free agency. It would also come at a steep price considering how high of a regard the two have been held within the Lakers’ front office.
Nonetheless, with the draft less than a week away and free agency to follow shortly thereafter, a wild, wild month lies ahead for the Lakers and the NBA.