Lakers Rumors: Latest on LeBron James, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard Trade

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 8, 2018

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, right, drives past Oklahoma City Thunder's Paul George in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers have more than one way to improve their roster this offseason, yet the summer seems to have an all-or-nothing feel.

Given their cap space and trade chips, it's possible they lure in two of the NBA's elite. Of course, there's also a chance their top targets don't buy what they're selling, forcing L.A. to pause its grandiose ambitions until it can aim for next summer's stars.

Because the Lakers have set their sights so high, the players they covet are seemingly always in the rumor mill. We have the latest buzz around these potential difference-makers below.


LeBron, Paul George To Discuss Joining Forces

The Lakers' ideal offseason involves filling both of their max-contract slots with perennial All-Stars. Since last summer, we've heard of the uber-optimistic goal to ink both LeBron James and Paul George.

Only time knows how realistic that goal is. However, it's apparently intriguing enough for the players themselves to consider it.

"That's gonna be a conversation or conversations (George and James) are gonna have once we get toward July," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said on the NBA Draft: On the Clock special, per Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman.

This isn't the most surprising news you'll hear.

Free agents need to consider all of their realistic options. And this possibility surely sounds more interesting than most.

James and George fit snugly together on paper. George can spread the floor (39.8 three-point percentage the last two seasons), defend the top perimeter player and carry the offense in spurts. That's several ways to keep the batteries charged for James, whose passing and gravitational pull would both ease the burden on George.

Plus, the whole thing happens in Hollywood, which should appeal both to James' entertainment aspirations and George's California roots.


George Happy in OKC?

There are always two sides (or more) to free-agency reports, and the other buzz around George is far less encouraging for Lakers fans.

"I think even around Paul George, there's a sense he feels like he's in a good place in Oklahoma City," Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania told Chris Mannix (h/t Silver Screen & Roll's Anthony Irwin).

Wojnarowski said the Thunder have "done a great job of selling him on a future there" and "have a real opportunity to keep him," per Dawson. That meshes with George's previous comments that the Thunder "kind of check the boxes on all the things that you want out of an organization," per Erik Horne of the Oklahoman.

None of this guarantees George's future will be in the Sooner State or even outside of Los Angeles. However, it does speak to the fact his California homecoming is far from certain.

The Thunder can make strong basketball arguments for staying.

Their 34 losses and first-round exit might both feel a little disappointing, but they had elite moments when at full strength. The preferred first five of George, Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams steamrolled teams by 14.2 points per 100 possessions over 539 minutes.


Spurs Not Talking Kawhi Trades Yet

The saga between Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs seems far from over.

The wounds are still fresh on both sides from what was essentially a lost season. A quadriceps injury wound up limiting him to only nine appearances, and his absence suggested a fairly deep divide between him and the team. He rehabbed away from the Spurs, and Gregg Popovich responded to inquires about Leonard with instructions to ask "his group," per Sam Amick of USA Today.

However, that hasn't yet motivated San Antonio to move him.

"A lot of teams in the league would like to get involved with trade talks with San Antonio," Wojnarowski said, per Spurs Zone's Jeff Garcia. "Those are not being entertained yet by the Spurs."

San Antonio can try to keep him, both because it has him under contract for another year and can offer him a five-year, $219 million supermax this summer.

But if this situation feels untenable, the Spurs might be forced to move him now without risking him leaving for nothing. And if it gets to that point, expect L.A. to be involved.

Multiple sources told Sean Deveney of Sporting News the Lakers will chase Leonard either this summer or next. The 26-year-old is from L.A. and already owns a Finals MVP and two Defensive Player of the Year awards.


Statistics used courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com.