Lakers Rumors: Latest on Kawhi Leonard and More Buzz After NBA Draft Lottery

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 16, 2018

San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard, right, drives past Los Angeles Lakers' Brandon Ingram during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers knew they would play only a background role in Tuesday's NBA draft lottery, having previously traded away what became the 10th overall pick.

But the fact the Association was gathered in Chicago for the annual drawing of pingpong balls is just another sign the offseason has started for most teams.

Given how much this summer could mean to the Lakers, it's worth taking note of everything swirling around the Purple and Gold.

Not surprisingly, there's quite a bit of buzz in and around this organization, so let's dive right into it.


Kawhi Eyeing Lakers?

Eric Gay/Associated Press

Every team with usable trade chips will give Kawhi Leonard a long look this summer. Make what you will of his injury-riddled year and seemingly frigid relationship with the San Antonio Spurs, he was still a 25-point scorer and top-three MVP finisher in 2016-17 as well as the Defensive Player of the Year in the previous two seasons.

When healthy, he's an elite talent of the highest order—perhaps the game's premier two-way player.

That said, teams might not be as willing to put all their eggs in the trade-for-Leonard basket as you'd think. He could reach free agency as soon as next summer and might get a supermax contract for his next deal.

Leonard might even have his next destination already in mind.

Bleacher Report's Ken Berger wrote: 

"It's commonly heard on the front-office grapevine that Leonard is eyeing the Lakers as a free agent in 2019. One of the Western Conference executives noted it's no accident that the Lakers reportedly have shifted their free-agent plans to focus on the '19 class (which Leonard may headline), according to Shelburne and ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski, as opposed to a quick fix this summer."

If Leonard's preference to play in his native L.A. is common knowledge, that could further deplete whatever leverage the San Antonio Spurs have in any trade talks.

That doesn't mean Leonard will be without a trade market. The Oklahoma City Thunder took a similar risk with Paul George last summer, and the Philadelphia 76ers have already expressed interest in acquiring Leonard, sources told Keith Pompey of Philly.com.

But the more people believe that Leonard wants to be a Laker, the less the Spurs can reasonably expect to get back in a deal.

Maybe that pushes L.A. to deem Brandon Ingram off-limits, or Philly does the same with Dario Saric and/or Markelle Fultz. Maybe the Boston Celtics (another possible suitor) say their best offer won't include Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown.

None of this guarantees that Leonard becomes a Laker, but it would certainly seem to increase the likelihood.


Busy Draft Workout Schedule

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 15: NBA Draft Prospect, Chimezie Metu poses for a portrait during the 2018 NBA Combine circuit on May 15, 2018 at the Intercontinental Hotel Magnificent Mile in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

While the Lakers had nothing to gain from the lottery, they do have multiple stakes in the draft itself. They're set to select 25th and 47th, which should give them a shot of landing at least one rotation player.

They've been busy auditioning prospects of late. They've had at least a dozen players work out at the UCLA Health Training Center, per Lakers.com.

The two groups featured a pair of players on the top-50 big board of Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman—Ohio State's Keita Bates-Diop (17th) and SMU's Shake Milton (33rd). They've also had twin brothers (Nevada's Cody and Caleb Martin) and a Lawndale, California, native who starred at USC (Chimezie Metu).

"I've been a Laker fan my whole life," Metu said, per Bill Oram of the Orange County Register. "Just being in here is crazy to me. ... Today was a dream come true to come out here and work out."

The Lakers have reportedly also worked out Chinese swingman Abudushalamu Abudurexiti, sources told The Athletic's Michael ScottoAbudurexiti seems a long shot to be drafted—he didn't make the 100-player big board of ESPN.com's Jonathan Givony—but he's billed as a good shooter with size and handles.

L.A. has a post-combine workout scheduled with St. John's Shamorie Ponds, per ZagsBlog's Adam Zagoria. Ponds averaged 21.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.3 steals as a sophomore last season.


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