Lakers Rumors: Latest Rumblings on Kawhi Leonard Trade, Paul George, Draft Plans

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 20, 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 sound busier than you'd expect for a team selecting outside the top 20 of the upcoming 2018 NBA draft.

But considering the stakes of this summer, it's no surprise the purple and gold would keep the rumor mill sufficiently populated.

The Lakers possess the cap space to sign two superstars, the trade chips to acquire a difference-maker that route and two selections in the aforementioned talent grab (Nos. 25 and 47).

If L.A. plays its cards perfectly, it could make the seldom seen one-year leap from non-playoff participant to full-fledged contender. Let's see what the latest rumblings indicate about the Lakers' summer plans.

                  

Kawhi Covets Lakers Trade

Eric Gay/Associated Press

The long-awaited meeting between San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and disgruntled superstar Kawhi Leonard finally took place Tuesday in San Diego, sources told Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania.

It sounds like Popovich probably didn't hear what he had hoped.

League sources told Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski that Leonard not only wants a trade, he has his preferred destination picked out:

"Leonard wants a trade to Los Angeles, preferably the Lakers over the Clippers, league sources said. He has privately maintained that he no longer wants to play in San Antonio, and will eventually alert rival teams considering trades for him that his intentions are to sign in Los Angeles—preferably with the Lakers—when he can become a free agent in 2019, league sources said."

None of this guarantees the Lakers get Leonard, or even that the Spurs let him go.

The former Finals MVP and two-time Defensive Player of the Year is signed through next season (with a player option for 2019-20), and he can make more money in the Alamo City than anywhere else.

As Eric Pincus detailed for Bleacher Report in February, Leonard could get a five-year, $219 million supermax deal from the Spurs this summer. If he's traded, his max to re-sign drops to $183 million. If he waits for free agency, his earnings top out at $140 million over four years.

But sources told ESPN's Chris Haynes that Leonard "isn't concerned about missing out on the supermax." That not only potentially removes San Antonio's biggest leverage, it also perhaps highlights the level of Leonard's interest in returning to his native L.A. Even if it's just perceived to do so, it can negatively impact what the Spurs are offered for other teams.

In other words, this report isn't an automatic win for the Lakers, but it certainly sounds like their position in the Leonard sweepstakes is improving.

                      

OKC's Odds of Keeping Paul George Going Up

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Back-to-back newsletters from Marc Stein of the New York Times have tossed cold water on the Lakers' dreams of luring Palmdale native—and five-time All-Star—Paul George to Hollywood.

Last week's entry detailed "a growing belief around the league" that the Thunder's chances of keeping George were "far better" than expected. In the latest version, via DailyThunder.com, Stein spoke of hearing "even more support around the league for the idea that Oklahoma City can really convince George to stay."

While Stein cautioned nothing is set in stone, he did say speculation "has reached the point that potential contract scenarios are starting to circulate." One such option, floated by multiple rival teams, would be a two-year, $63 million pact featuring a player option for the second season.

That theoretically gives George an extra season to see if anything can happen with OKC before making a major move elsewhere. The Thunder disappointed overall last season, but they also performed at an elite level when George played alongside Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams (plus-14.2 net rating, would have led the league).

It's possible the longer George goes without being a Laker, the less likely his eventual arrival becomes. But, according to Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, L.A. has discussed rolling some or all of its cap space over to 2019, so an extra season in OKC hardly rules out a homecoming at some point.

                   

Possible Draft Promise

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - JANUARY 31: Kevin Huerter #4 of the Maryland Terrapins brings the ball up court during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena on January 31, 2018 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Lakers had last season's second-worst three-point percentage. Two of their three leaders in three-point makes are headed to unrestricted free agency—Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Brook Lopez.

Would it surprise you to hear, then, they're being connected to perhaps this rookie crop's top sniper? It's only logical, right?

That's why this report of a possible draft promise—something typically best received with a full shaker of salt—sounds like it could have legs to it:

Kevin Huerter seemingly shot his way into the first round.

First, he totaled 138 triples on 39.4 percent shooting over two seasons at Maryland. Then, he dazzled in the shooting drills at the combine, where he also impressed with his athletic testing and the versatility displayed during scrimmaging.

It would make a lot of sense for the Lakers to like Huerter, regardless if a promise was made or not.

                     

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

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