Heading into 2018 NBA free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers had grand plans of signing two superstar free agents. Their prime targets were presumed to be LeBron James and hometown hero Paul George.
George spurned the Lakers, without even granting them a meeting before re-signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder. As the franchise was still dealing with the sting from that, James committed to the Lakers on a four-year contract.
His arrival fueled speculation the Lakers would look to aggressively pursue a trade for Kawhi Leonard. It was believed Leonard had interest in returning to Los Angeles, but the San Antonio Spurs did not acquiesce, instead trading him to the Toronto Raptors.
It may have been just as well, as reports indicated Leonard was hesitant — if not completely opposed to — playing alongside James on the Lakers. During an appearance on the “The Hoop Collective” Podcast, ESPN’s Michael C. Wright conveyed that still holds true:
“I do not (see Leonard signing with the Lakers to play with James). “That’s just what I’ve been told. It’s what I’ve been told going back to last summer. So, yeah, I don’t see that as something that’s happening. I think he goes to the Clippers.”
The Raptors trading for Leonard was perceived by many to be a significant risk, considering all signs pointed to the 27-year-old having interest in signing with the L.A. Clippers in 2019 free agency.
Leonard since is said to have grown more fond of Toronto, which has many believing a free agency decision will ultimately boil down to re-signing with the Raptors or bucking NBA history by joining the Clippers.