The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly not signing Moritz Wagner, the 25th overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, to his rookie contract until they see whether he can be used as a trade asset, potentially in a deal for San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard.
On Wednesday, Ramona Shelburne, Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reported the Lakers and Spurs are engaged in active trade talks about Leonard, whose acquisition would "likely clinch a free-agent commitment out of LeBron James."
Wagner could be used as part of the package going to San Antonio, but if he signed a rookie deal, he wouldn't be eligible to get dealt for 30 days.
The 21-year-old Germany native is coming off a strong junior campaign at the University of Michigan. He averaged 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 52.8 percent from the field, including 39.4 percent from three-point range, across 39 games for the Wolverines.
After last week's draft, the power forward expressed optimism about his ability to make an impact with the Lakers.
"They're obviously a flashy franchise," Wagner told reporters. "They like to play fast. … They focus a lot on playing fast, so that's something I'm very excited to prove [I can do]."
While he may still get that opportunity, the Lakers want to leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of Leonard and James, a duo who could instantly vault the franchise back into championship contention.
In San Antonio, Wagner would likely emerge as the first frontcourt player off the bench behind LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol, unless the Spurs are able to shed the latter's contract in the Leonard deal.
Despite the Lakers delaying his rookie deal, Wagner should have a better grip on his future soon with free agency set to open next week and James reportedly seeking a quick resolution.