Lakers Rumors: LA Has 'Believed for Weeks' They'd Be in on Kawhi Leonard Race

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJune 25, 2019

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 17:  Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors holds the MVP trophy during the Toronto Raptors Victory Parade on June 17, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. The Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors 4-2 to win the 2019 NBA Finals.  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 Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Clippers and Toronto Raptors have long been rumored to be the leaders in the Kawhi Leonard free-agency sweepstakes. 

However, Marc Stein of the New York Times reported Tuesday that the "[Los Angeles Lakershave believed for weekseven before they acquired Anthony Davisthat they would factor into the Kawhi Leonard chase."

The Lakers' reported thoughts run counter to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN's June 18 report on Get Up! that Leonard's focus was on the Clippers.

Frank Isola of The Athletic also reported Leonard and the Clippers have a meeting set up for Tuesday, July 2. Free agency begins Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.

Caesars Palace also listed the Lakers as distant 15-1 underdogs to land Leonard on June 17, with the Clips and Raps tied up top.

One of the potential reasons may be the salary-cap hurdles the Lakers must overcome to land Leonard.

As Brad Botkin of CBS Sports wrote on Tuesday, Los Angeles is short of the $32 million required to sign anyone with 10 or fewer years in the league to a max deal.New acquisition Anthony Davis can reject his $4 million trade bonus to give the Lakers $27 million in space, but Los Angeles would need to get creative and find trade suitors for a few remaining players such as Mo Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones.

If the Lakers don't land Leonard, they can take solace in the fact that they successfully traded for Davis, a six-time All-Star who posted 25.9 points and 12.0 rebounds per game in 2018-19.

Even without Leonard, the Lakers are clear favorites to win the NBA title at 3-1, per Caesars Palace.

The Clippers are 7-1, implying the sportsbook's confidence they land a big-time free agent.