Lakers Rumors: Evaluating Latest on Big Names Expected to Be Free Agency Targets

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 30: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs wait for a rebound during the second half at Quicken Loans Arena on January 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Spurs 117-103. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

The 2018 offseason could make the Los Angeles Lakers title contenders. 

Or it could be another summer in which they take a swing and miss in free agency.

Considering the rumor mill as the league heads toward free agency on July 1, it feels like an all or nothing proposition for the Purple and Gold. 

The good news is that the organization has positioned itself as a team that can once again become a title contender. With a number of good, young assets and the obvious draw of playing in Los Angeles, the Lakers find themselves at the epicenter of the talk surrounding the league's most talented free agents. 

Here's a look at the latest chatter regarding the likes of Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and Paul George

         

Kawhi Leonard Committed to Being a Laker

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 26:  Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs drives to the basket as he gets past Brandon Ingram #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half of the game at Staples Center on February 26, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. S
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

It's a good news, bad news situation with the Lakers and Kawhi Leonard. 

The good news is that Leonard appears committed to being a Laker. The San Antonio Spurs have the ability to offer him a five-year, $219 million supermax deal when next season is over, but Stephen A. Smith of ESPN reported that Leonard doesn't care about the money and prefers to play in Los Angeles as soon as he can choose his destination. 

The bad news is he can't choose his destination yet, and it doesn't appear that the Spurs have any interest in granting Leonard's wish one year early via trade, per Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com. 

The Lakers are in a position this offseason where they have two max contract slots available to go with their plethora of young talent, so the timing is perfect for the Lakers to add Leonard to the fold. Unfortunately for them, it doesn't look like the Spurs are willing to negotiate with them at this time. 

For now, the Lakers will likely have to turn their attention elsewhere and be glad that they don't have to part with any of their young assets while turning their team into a title contender.

      

LeBron James and Paul George Still Mulling Decisions

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - FEBRUARY 13:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Paul George #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder hug after the game on February 13, 2018 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackn
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

It's difficult to talk about LeBron James without also talking about Paul George. As previously mentioned, the Lakers do have two max contract slots this offseason, and bringing in both of the forwards would be ideal. 

While the Lakers have been a favorite at one point or another to land one or both, it would appear that neither is a done deal just yet. 

According to Sam Amick of USA Today, George's decision to leave Oklahoma City isn't as sure a thing as previously thought. The forward could decide to continue playing alongside Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony:

"Even with the Thunder coming just two losses away from missing the playoffs, and then falling to Utah in six games during their first-round matchup, there is all sorts of optimism in Oklahoma City that George will re-sign. Conversely, there's pessimism in James' camp that George would leave Oklahoma City."

George's first season in Oklahoma City might not have yielded great results, but the pairing of Westbrook and the star forward could take another season to develop. 

That is, of course, unless he knows there's the opportunity to team up with another superstar in Los Angeles. It stands to reason that George's decision will likely be influenced by James. As Amick's report noted, James' camp has a sense of what PG-13's team is thinking. 

One Eastern Conference GM reportedly told Mark Heisler of the Orange County Register that James is "Doing what we does—calling players on other teams he wants to play with.”

Connecting the dots, bringing another star into the fold is an important aspect of James' decision. Where James has shown mastery of getting to the Finals in the Eastern Conference, getting there in the Western Conference will require help. 

As one of the top free agents in this class and a former Team USA teammate with James, George is assuredly one of those players who James has been talking with. 

Going to the Lakers without the knowledge of another All-Star teammate joining him in Hollywood means a more difficult path to the Finals than he has in Cleveland

With the possibility of missing out on one if they don't sign the other, it's going to be pivotal for the Lakers to establish themselves as the favorite for both free agents if they don't want to wait a season for Kawhi to become title contenders once again.   

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