Kawhi Leonard Rumors: Lakers, Clippers Meetings Planned; Raptors to Meet Last

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2019

Toronto Raptors' Kawhi Leonard in action during the second half of Game 6 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, Thursday, May 9, 2019, in Philadelphia. 76ers won 112-101. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Chris Szagola/Associated Press

When Kawhi Leonard takes meetings in Los Angeles at the start of free agency, the Toronto Raptors will be given the opportunity to make the final pitch, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports also reported that the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers would get a sitdown with the superstar forward:

"Leonard intends to grant the Lakers and the Clippers meetings when free agency opens on June 30, league sources told Yahoo Sports. The meetings would be held in Los Angeles, sources said. Leonard, who declined his $21.3 million player option to become an unrestricted free agent, plans to meet with a handful of teams—including the Raptors—before making a decision about his future, sources said."

That follows reports from The Athletic's Sam Amick and Frank Isola in recent days that the New York Knicks would likely get a meeting with Leonard at the start of free agency, while Wojnarowski reported during the NBA draft that the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets may also get a meeting with the superstar. 

While the Clippers and Raptors are the presumed favorites to land Leonard, the Lakers put themselves in the running after Anthony Davis waived his $4 million trade kicker on Thursday. The Lakers have traded away the rest of their young players not named Kyle Kuzma, all clearing up the $32 million in cap space needed for a max slot.

ESPN's Wojnarowski, Zach Lowe and Bobby Marks additionally reported that the team was exploring several options beyond Leonard in free agency:

"The Lakers are expected to pursue several scenarios in free agency, including Brooklyn Nets point guard D'Angelo Russell—who is a restricted free agent—and Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard, league sources said. If the Lakers decide to break up the money, they're interested in several combinations of players, including Toronto's Danny Green, Orlando Magic guard Terrence Ross, Portland Trail Blazers guard Seth Curry and several other free agents with strong shooting ability."

Davis' decision in particular to waive his $4 million trade kicker is perhaps a sign that the Lakers have a legitimate chance to lure a third star to Los Angeles. There's obviously no guarantee the player would be Leonard, but it's hard to imagine Davis giving up $4 million without having a pretty good idea that the savings would go toward a superstar. 

Of course, Leonard may not want to join a superteam. He may want to be the type of superstar who beats such a team, as he did with the Raptors this season (albeit with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson being lost to injuries). 

The Clippers have long been considered the favorites to sign Leonard, though his title with the Raptors this season perhaps evened the odds. The Lakers' moves on Thursday may not have changed that math, but they now at least have the ability to offer him the max, or extremely close to it. 

And the fact that they are at least getting a meeting means they're still in the mix, even peripherally. Even if Leonard doesn't join the Lakers, the team now has the cap room to either lure a superstar or offer competitive contracts to solid role players to round out the roster around James and Davis.