Lakers Rumors: 'Whispers' Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard Don't Want to Join LeBron

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2018

SAN ANTONIO,TX - DECEMBER 25:  Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs greets Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls at the start of the game at AT&T Center on December 25, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas.  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. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are poised to be big players in free agency next offseason, but landing a star to go alongside LeBron James could prove difficult.

According to Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer, there are "whispers" around the NBA that Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard don't want to team with LeBron.

Both Butler and Leonard can become free agents during the offseason.

Butler is still a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He requested a trade three weeks ago, however, and his relationship with the organization appears to be crumbling.

Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs shipped Leonard to the Toronto Raptors during the offseason after he requested to be dealt.

That was the second-biggest move of the summer following LeBron's decision to leave the Cavaliers and sign with the Lakers despite reaching four consecutive NBA Finals in Cleveland.

While there isn't another established star on L.A.'s roster, James will play alongside of stable of promising youngsters, including Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball.

The Lakers likely have enough to be a playoff team in 2018-19, but they need another All-Star to elevate themselves to championship contention in a Western Conference that includes the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets.

Butler and Leonard are two of the NBA's best two-way players, and either of them would make the Lakers a true championship threat.

The 29-year-old Butler is a four-time All-Star and four-time All-Defensive Team selection who has averaged 20 or more points per game in each of the past four campaigns.

Although Leonard missed all but nine games last season because of injury, he is accomplished in his own right with two All-Star nods, two Defensive Player of the Year awards, one championship and one NBA Finals MVP award to his credit.

Both Butler and Leonard are talented enough to be go-to guys, which may play into their reported lack of desire to join James.

Such was the case with Kyrie Irving, who was dealt to the Boston Celtics during the 2017 offseason after requesting a trade despite making three straight Finals appearances alongside LeBron.

If neither Butler nor Leonard has interest in the Lakers, O'Connor noted that L.A. may have to try to sign Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker or Milwaukee Bucks small forward Khris Middleton.

Both compete at or near an All-Star level, but it can be argued that neither would have the same franchise-changing effect that a player like Butler or Leonard would in L.A.

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