The San Antonio Spurs reportedly aren’t in a hurry to trade Kawhi Leonard. They especially don’t want to move him to the Los Angeles Lakers, a Western Conference rival who would then also likely be in line to land LeBron James in free agency.
Still, the Lakers continue to pester San Antonio about the former NBA Finals MVP.
It was reported that the Spurs had backed off of talks with Los Angeles recently, but now it appears that the Lakers are yet again trying to get into the ear of San Antonio GM RC Buford to pry Leonard away from the state of Texas.
According to ESPN, the Lakers have re-engaged the Spurs about a trade package centered around Leonard. There is some considerable urgency for LA, who need to try to get a deal done before Friday when LeBron can opt in or out of his deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Lakers are using the Paul George and Kyrie Irving trades as proportional models for a Leonard deal, but San Antonio understands that this trade, for intents and purposes, would mean Leonard and James coming to the Lakers, and will likely command a massive package of young players and draft picks for Leonard, a two-time first-team All-NBA and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
The Lakers are in no rush to sign the 25th overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, Michigan forward Mo Wagner, to his rookie scale deal, which would allow the Lakers to include his draft rights into a trade package, league sources said. Wagner couldn’t be traded for 30 days once he signs his rookie deal.
The Lakers are pursuing an additional first-round pick on the trade market too, offering to incur a salary dump of contracts to get a pick, league sources said.
Time is not on the side of Los Angeles, and this is a smart tactic from the San Antonio front office. Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson are not as experienced in these type of deals as Buford and his staff, and this is a clever way to drive up the price on Leonard, who deflated his own trade value after reports he wanted to leave the Spurs leaked.
It will be hard for the Lakers to get a deal done in a one-on-one swap. What makes more sense is for the Lakers and Spurs to bring in a third team looking to take on bad salary in exchange for picks to help facilitate.
Assessing Leonard’s value at this point is fairly difficult, but no doubt San Antonio is doing all they can to make sure they are well-compensated for his services. The consequences of getting a deal done around Leonard are so vast that it seems to make sense that the Lakers would get something done. Whether or not they bet the farm and go in too deep, with nothing to surround Leonard and perhaps LeBron with, is a whole other can of beans.
Free agency starts on Sunday, and the moratorium ends on July 6th.