After the Los Angeles Lakers finally traded for Anthony Davis as LeBron James’ second All-Star player, they eventually had a near max-contract slot to sign a third.
With an opportunity to sign Kawhi Leonard, his near week-long decision unfortunately led him to the Los Angeles Clippers as the Lakers quickly pivoted to Plan B.
Since Leonard’s decision, there are new details emerging about his thought process and why he signed with the Clippers over the Lakers and the Toronto Raptors.
Had it not been for the Paul George trade, Leonard reportedly ‘would have likely’ signed with the Lakers, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:
Leonard would have likely chosen the Lakers if the Clippers hadn’t found a way to pull off the blockbuster trade for George, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Leonard himself later revealed the Lakers were ‘close’ to signing him after his introductory press conference:
“If they didn’t want to wait for me, they didn’t have to,” the two-time NBA Finals MVP told Yahoo Sports in an exclusive interview after the introductory press conference. “They had a big opportunity to sign me. [The Lakers] were close, but I ended up on the other side.”
While there have been heated debates about if the Lakers should have waited on Leonard, they made the right decision for one of the top-three players in the league right now — at worst. If Leonard signed with them, the Lakers would have formed the most talented Big 3 in history.
As second place is the first loser, general manager Rob Pelinka and company recovered nicely in free agency.
Since most teams had significant cap space, there were a lot of questionable deals handed out to players beginning on June 30. This eventually benefited the Lakers as they were able to sign players below their market value.
Along with the league having parity for the first time in five seasons, the 2019-20 NBA season will mark the first time both Los Angeles teams are championship contenders.
As the Lakers move forward, James, Davis, and a strong supporting cast around them are determined to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Los Angeles for the first time since the 2010 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.