Lakers Rumors: Kawhi Leonard a 'Strong Possibility' for LA After AD Trade

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2019

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard speaks at a news conference alongside the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophy after the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, June 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

The reigning Finals MVP is reportedly in play for the Los Angeles Lakers to finalize their new Big Three with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

"After the AD trade on Saturday, I had a conversation with somebody that's close to the situation that said Kawhi Leonard is now in play for the Lakers," Damon Jones said on Monday's Get Up!. "Now there's a lot of things that have to happen. The Lakers have to clear the cap space, although Kawhi Leonard right now is still contemplating if he's going to go back to Toronto. And if he does that, it'd be on a shorter deal."

Mike Greenberg then asked if the Lakers are a legit possibility if Kawhi doesn't go back to the Toronto Raptors, and Jones replied, "Strong possibility, I was told by someone close to the situation."

Jones said Leonard's interest is contingent on the Lakers having max-level cap space this summer. The Lakers will need the New Orleans Pelicans to agree to wait until July 30 to complete the Davis trade in order for them to have max cap space.

The current expectation is the Lakers and Pelicans will finalize the Davis trade July 6, which would leave Los Angeles with either $27.7 million or $23.7 million in cap space, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Lakers and Pelicans have plenty of time to work out the fine details of the trade. The NBA moratorium begins June 30, which will allow the Lakers to negotiate with prospective free agents before the Davis trade is finalized. If they get a verbal commitment from Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, etc., odds are they will go back to the negotiating table with the Pelicans and ask them to push the date back until July 30.

New Orleans may then ask for additional compensation, like another pick swap, in exchange for waiting. However, it would be a major miscalculation by Lakers management to have not already had these types of discussions with the Pelicans. They were already essentially negotiating against themselves to complete the trade; negotiating a flexible timeframe should have been general manager Rob Pelinka's top priority.

Leonard's desire to play in Los Angeles dates back to his trade request from the San Antonio Spurs last summer. The Spurs refused to acquiesce to Leonard's demand, instead trading him to Toronto, where he led the Raptors to their first NBA championship.

It's possible, perhaps even likely, that Leonard signs a short-term contract wherever he winds up this summer. Inking a two-year deal with a third-year player option would allow Kawhi to re-enter free agency after he reaches 10 years of NBA service, entitling him to the 35 percent max.

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