While the Los Angeles Lakers and other teams were preparing to pursue the likes of LeBron James and Paul George in free agency, some were also connected to Kawhi Leonard and his desire to be traded by the San Antonio Spurs.
Leonard’s request stemmed from a fractured relationship with the organization over a quad injury that limited him to just nine games this past season. Leonard was cleared for a return but didn’t feel comfortable doing so and took his recovery away from the team.
In addition to seeking a trade, it was believed Leonard’s desire was to be sent to Los Angeles, with a preference on joining the Lakers. Weeks of speculation gave way to the Spurs trading Leonard to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for a package centered around DeMar DeRozan.
With the 27-year-old entering the final year of his contract and possibly only being a rental for the Raptors, there’s a belief Leonard will ultimately make his way to Southern California.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers and Clippers are essentially in equal standing when it comes to their odds to sign Leonard as a 2019 free agent:
“I think L.A. for him, Lakers or Clippers both have a real chance at him. I think both are going to be able to make different cases.”
A previous report suggested there was an equal level of confidence for James and the Lakers, and the Clippers, that they had the inside track to sign the 2014 NBA Finals MVP.
For the Lakers, the situation is similar to what unfolded with Paul George over the past year. They decided against trading for him because of confidence he would sign as a free agent. That of course backfired in the long run as he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder and re-signed.