Lakers Rumors: LA Prefers Klay Thompson over Kawhi Leonard in '19 Free Agency

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2018

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) looks on in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz Tuesday, April 10, 2018, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Alex Goodlett)
Alex Goodlett/Associated Press

Like many other teams, the Los Angeles Lakers are looking ahead to the star-studded 2019 free-agent class, and they may already have a primary target in mind.

Speaking on ESPN LA 710's Mornings with Keyshawn, LZ and Travis, ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne reported Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson may be high on the Lakers' wish list (h/t Anthony Irwin of SB Nation's Silver Screen & Roll):

"In terms of who they target next year, it's whoever wants to come. My feeling about it, my sense from just talking to people in and around this [is that] one, it's a little early, but I think they like Mychal's boy. I think that would be the guy, in terms of skillset and how that would fit. Obviously Kawhi [Leonard], he's a great player as well, but we'll see if he stays in Toronto now. But I think they like Klay [Thompson]."

Thompson already has a personal connection to the Lakers. His father, Mychal, spent four-and-a-half seasons with the team, helping Los Angeles win NBA titles in 1987 and 1988. For the past 15 years, Thompson has worked as a color commentator on Lakers broadcasts.

Having failed to find a suitable star to pair with LeBron James this summer, the Lakers will try to do so in 2019. 

According to Shelburne and colleague Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers will have $38 million in salary-cap space next offseason after agreeing to a buyout with Luol Deng. That would be enough to sign a max-level free agent such as Thompson.

Still, this offseason has shown the Lakers can't assume anything regarding their chances of signing All-Star-caliber players. They succeeded in landing James, but Paul George remained with the Oklahoma City Thunder before giving the Lakers an opportunity to make a pitch.

For Thompson, joining the Lakers doesn't make much sense unless he's simply ready for a fresh challenge.

The Warriors are far better positioned to contend for NBA titles in the short term, and they can offer him more money than any other team. Plus, James' presence ensures he wouldn't be the biggest star in Los Angeles, which could otherwise be seen as a benefit to leaving Golden State.

The Lakers should look at Thompson—just like every other team that is planning to have max-level cap space next summer. But Los Angeles should have a number of scenarios in mind for how the offseason could play out, because a lot will change before next July.

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