Lakers Rumors: Latest Buzz on Kawhi Leonard, D'Angelo Russell and More

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2019

Toronto Raptors' Kawhi Leonard (2) drives to the basket against Orlando Magic's Aaron Gordon, left, during the first half in Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, April 21, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

Though they were largely irrelevant during the regular season, the Los Angeles Lakers have quickly become one of the NBA's most interesting teams. Their trade to acquire Anthony Davis and to pair him with LeBron James has set the Lakers up as a possible contender next season.

What's intriguing is Los Angeles' approach to the upcoming free-agency period.

The duo of Davis and James gives the Lakers a strong core, but it does not make up a championship roster. This is why Los Angeles will be searching for a third star and some support personnel on the open market.

The biggest prize on the market is Toronto Raptors forward and reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Along with Davis, he could provide L.A. with a strong defense capable of flustering even the most potent offenses.

Though Leonard is probably a long-shot to join the Lakers—he's "strongly considering" a return to Toronto, according to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes—it isn't an impossibility.

"Western Conference VP says the Lakers are operating as if 'they think they have a strong shot' at adding Leonard after acquiring New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis to play alongside their incumbent star, LeBron James, in a deal that can't be officially consummated until next month," Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher recently wrote.

Leonard is a player to at least keep an eye on.

Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Another player who makes a ton of sense for Los Angeles is Brooklyn Nets point guard D'Angelo Russell. He averaged a strong 21.1 points and 7.0 assists last season. He also fills a position of need, as the Lakers traded away Lonzo Ball in the Davis deal.

The 23-year-old, who was drafted and later traded by the Lakers, appears at least open to a return.

"Russell's breakup with the Lakers wasn't pretty, but it's difficult to hold grudges in this league," Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus wrote. "With [Magic] Johnson gone, some close to Russell have indicated he may be open to the idea if Brooklyn isn't in the picture."

Like Leonard, though, Russell could be keen on returning to his current team. At the very least, he appears to enjoy playing in Brooklyn.

"It's fun. It's fun," Russell said, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. "This is a city that loves basketball. There's a court on every corner."

It remains to be seen if playing in a "basketball town" is enough reason for Russell to stay, but there is something to be said for enjoying one's work environment.

And if the Lakers cannot land either Leonard or Russell? Well, they're certainly going to keep trying. James has been on the recruiting trail this offseason, and it appears his newest teammate is joining him.

"You have two recruiters now," ESPN's Ramona Shelburne said on The Hoop Collective. "It's not just LeBron, it's Anthony Davis, who hasn't really ever been in a market or situation where his pull mattered, but we're about to find out, and I think it's an interesting referendum on who wants to play with LeBron, but also who wants to come play with Anthony Davis and LeBron."

Expect James, Davis and the Lakers to continue pushing for new talent throughout the entirety of the offseason.