The Los Angeles Lakers find themselves at the center of a number significant rumors as the start of free agency nears. Not only are they in the mix to sign superstars LeBron James and Paul George but they are also in hot pursuit of a trade with the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard.
While there are some conflicting reports, the general line of thinking is that adding Leonard now will improve the Lakers’ chances of convincing James in particular to make the jump to Los Angeles.
If that is indeed the case, then the Lakers will certainly feel a sense of urgency to get a trade done prior to the start of free agency — or before July 6, when the moratorium ends and players can begin signing contracts.
However, it appears that Lakers aren’t the only ones who are hoping that Leonard can help them ultimately sign James. According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Philadelphia 76ers have the same goal and are also negotiating with the Spurs:
But the Los Angeles Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers have been pressing the Spurs to trade Leonard this week, as both teams believe that acquiring Leonard would put them in pole position to try to sign LeBron James away from the Cleveland Cavaliers when free agency starts Sunday at 12:01 a.m., Eastern time.
For the Spurs, the more suitors they can get involved in the trade discussions the more leverage they will have. Leonard has a lot of power in the situation since he will hit free agency in 2019.
Should he make it clear to teams that he will not stay longer than the one year remaining on his contract, that would allow him to somewhat steer trade talks since it’s unlikely that a team would give up their best assets if they are convinced they will only have him for a year.
Should the 76ers offer up some of their young talents, like perhaps Dario Saric, Robert Covington, or maybe even Markelle Fultz, that could be enough to sway the Spurs. Though the Lakers have their own intriguing assets in Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball.
At this point, however, nothing is certain, save for the fact that the Lakers are doing what they can to bring superstars to Los Angeles.
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