Free agency and trade rumors are heating up as the start of the new NBA year approaches. Last week, it was reported that San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard has requested a trade from the Spurs with the Los Angeles Lakers listed as his preferred destination.
With links to LeBron James and Paul George also apparent, the Lakers must move fast if they hope to add major talent this offseason. Leonard can only be acquired via a trade (he is a free agent in 2019) but the Spurs will do everything they can to get leverage in such an instance.
According to ESPN’s Jackie McMullan (h/t Sagar Trika) the Spurs have no interest in taking back Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball in a hypothetical trade:
Jackie MacMullan just now on Around The Horn: The San Antonio Spurs have no interest in a trade that brings in Lonzo Ball.
— Sagar Trika (@BlazersBySagar) June 19, 2018
Meanwhile, several people (namely ESPN’s Chris Haynes) have speculated that if LeBron were to sign with the Lakers, Ball would be among the first members of the young core to be traded for more veteran help.
Obviously, different teams value players differently. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the Spurs don’t think highly of Ball. It’s also very possible that the Spurs are leaking smokescreens to field more competitive offers both from LA and from other suitors.
There have been reports that the Spurs would not want to trade with the Lakers, especially in a manner that could facilitate the making of another superteam with James and George in the Western Conference.
However, at the end of the day, the Spurs will take the best offer they can get for their superstar if they do indeed trade him. The Lakers have an advantage over other teams with Leonard having announced his preferred destination and teams being unwilling to trade major assets to acquire a potential one-year rental. Meanwhile, the Lakers are reportedly not sold on a Leonard deal, anyway, citing concerns over his longterm health.
Meanwhile, Ball’s future in Los Angeles might be the most secure of any of the young players on the Lakers. Not only is he a talented and high-potential prospect, but he is under team control for three more years and is the prized possession of a new front office that deemed him the face of the franchise last June. That’s not to mention that he is a cerebral player who fits much more clearly next to any combination of James, George, and Leonard than, say, Brandon Ingram would.
There’s no telling what will happen over the next few weeks with the draft and free agency approaching. The Lakers will be busy and they will be linked to most significant transactions in the NBA. Whether they amount to anything remains to be seen.