The 2019 NBA offseason promises to be a wild one. There are many high-caliber star free agents and several teams with the necessary cap space to sign them. We could see a lot of movement around the league.
One of the major storylines of the summer is the off-court battle between the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers. Both teams have the flexibility to add one or more major contributors to their teams. Their offseason success, or lack thereof, could shape the NBA landscape for years to come.
Both the Lakers and Clippers have their eyes set on the highest tier of stars. Among those players who could vault either team into title contention is Kawhi Leonard. According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, via “a former player,” Leonard’s teammates believe that the star forward is aiming to move to Los Angeles, although his final destination still remains to be seen:
One former player said Leonard’s teammates expect him to leave for Los Angeles after the season, although he didn’t specify which franchise. Outside of a few who suggest Leonard might choose the Lakers, it seems almost everyone around the league (dating back to last July) believes Leonard will join the Clippers instead.
It’s difficult to get a true grasp on where Leonard will end up, given the secretive nature with which he presents himself. If he chooses to spurn the Toronto Raptors, who have a legitimate shot at reaching the NBA Finals this year, then both LA franchises could be in play.
The Lakers have LeBron James, young developing players who could top out as stars, and the branding that the Clippers will never be able to offer.
The Clippers have stability in their management, including less drama and national attention, a team that is already competing in the playoffs despite a lack of stars, and the potential to team Leonard up with another of the major free agents available this summer.
Since the Lakers were unable to trade for Leonard last summer when he requested a trade from the San Antonio Spurs, it’s been unclear how much of a player they would be for the former defensive player of the year in 2019. Early reports indicated that Leonard wanted to be a Laker but James’ arrival in the purple and gold may have changed the calculus. At this point, most people in the know seem to believe that Leonard would prefer the Clippers.
Kawhi is not the only player that could make the Lakers’ offseason a success. But he is arguably the biggest fish they could reel in. If he’s not quite as good as Kevin Durant, he’s at least close. And at just 27 years old, he has a long time until he plummets from his current level as one of the truly elite players in the league.