Both the 2018 NBA Draft and start of free agency were accompanied by plenty of intrigue and speculation over how the San Antonio Spurs would go about handling their saga with Kawhi Leonard.
Because of a fractured relationship with the organization, Leonard requested that he be traded. It’s a stance he maintained even after meeting with head coach Gregg Popovich, who navigated through a similar scenario with LaMarcus Aldridge.
While Leonard reportedly made his preference clear, the Spurs understandably haven’t been in a rush to meet that. They initially rebuked the Lakers’ inquiry and were later said to have asked for a king’s ransom in trade talks.
Expectation over a potential deal did continue to build up, as it was believed the Lakers and other interested teams wished to complete a trade prior to or during the early hours of free agency beginning.
That eventually died down but recently the Toronto Raptors were identified as a possible suitor for the Spurs. During an appearance on “The Lowe Podcast,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst explained why the Raptors may have the upper hand in completing a Leonard trade, whereas the Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers have taken a step back:
“I think they’re in the driver’s seat for Kawhi, because I think the Lakers have given up. The Sixers have given up. And with the Nets, Bulls, Hawks spending their cap space, it makes it harder to assemble a multi-team trade.
A prior report indicated the Lakers believed they needed to trade for Leonard and/or sign Paul George in order to land LeBron James. That of course proved to be a moot point as Leonard remained with the Spurs, George re-signed with Oklahoma City, but James committed anyway.
The Lakers find themselves in a bit of a difficult situation despite a belief Leonard wishes to join the team. A trade would in theory further strengthen their roster, but not if the Spurs remain insistent on receiving Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and other assets in the trade.
Los Angeles could just as well wait for Leonard to become a 2019 free agent, but that strategy backfired with George. Moreover, the Spurs can present Leonard with a supermax contract offer, which despite some the friction that my exist between the two sides, would be a jarring financial decision to turn down.
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