Lakers Rumors: Latest Buzz on Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and More

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2019

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 17, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers kicked off the NBA offseason with a bang by negotiating a trade to land Anthony Davis. The trade with the New Orleans Pelicans—which will become official on July 6—gives the Lakers a pair of superstars in Davis and LeBron James.

However, at the time the deal was announced, it appeared likely that Los Angeles wouldn't have enough cap space to pursue a third top-tier player in free agency. Fortunately for Lakers fans, Los Angeles has figured out to rectify the situation.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Zach Lowe and Bobby Marks of ESPN, the Lakers have tweaked the Davis trade in a couple of ways to free up enough space to sign a max-contract player. First, the team convinced Davis to give back the $4 million trade bonus in his contract. Then it brought the Washington Wizards into the mix to make it a three-team deal.

Los Angeles will send a second-round draft pick to Washington, along with the contracts of Mo Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones. The Wizards, in turn, will send cash to the Pelicans. The new three-team deal should leave the Lakers with enough available cap space to add a premier free agent when the market opens Sunday evening (6 p.m. ET).

So which player is Los Angeles targeting? According to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, the top two targets are Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving—and if the Lakers cannot land either, they will instead focus on landing second-tier players.

"For the Lakers, my understanding is they'll spend that $32 million on a max player if it is Kawhi Leonard or Kyrie Irving," Shelburne said on The Jump. "If it's not one of those two players, things get a little bit more complicated. They'd rather split it up. Now, there's some discussion about Jimmy Butler, but it's really Kawhi or Kyrie Irving."

Irving may already be out of the mix, however. Wojnarowski reported that he is expected to meet with the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday and that "both sides are motivated" to quickly reach a contract agreement.

What about reigning Finals MVP Leonard? As unlikely as it might have seemed in mid-June, his signing is a real possibility. As Marc Stein of the New York Times pointed out, the Lakers are now considered by some to be the favorites to land Leonard.

"With free agency a day and change away, it's the Lakers who have convinced Las Vegas—and an increasing number of league insiders—that they are L.A.'s true threat to limiting Kawhi Leonard's Toronto Raptors career to a single season. Not the Clippers," Stein said via Twitter.

The path to Leonard isn't clear for the Lakers, though. He is also expected to meet with the Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and, of course, the Toronto Raptors, according to FS1's Cris Carter.

One person who could throw a proverbial wrench into the Lakers' plans is Kevin Durant. He and Leonard have at least discussed the possibility of playing together, according to Wojnarowski and Shelburne:

"Free-agent stars Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard have been discussing scenarios that could include a future with them playing together, league sources told ESPN. For now, there are two clear possibilities for the All-NBA forwards to sign into the same franchise—the LA Clippers and New York Knicks. Durant and Leonard are planning to talk with each of those teams once free agency opens Sunday at 6 p.m. ET, league sources said."

As Wojnarowski and Shelburne pointed out, the Knicks and the Clippers have the cap space to realistically pursue both players. The Lakers do not. Therefore, if Leonard is determined to join the same team as Durant, L.A. will have to move on to Plan B.

Fortunately, Los Angeles' secondary plan is also quite appealing. Davis and James are talented enough that a couple of good-but-not-elite complementary pieces could still make the Lakers a title contender. One of those possible complementary players is Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley.

According to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers have already reached out to Beverley.

Though Beverley isn't of Leonard's caliber, he would be a terrific fit for Los Angeles' needs. He's capable on the defensive end of the court, and he's dangerous enough from beyond the arc—he made 39.7 percent of his three-point attempts last season—to help open up the floor for James and Davis.

Just as important is the fact that Beverley isn't a max-contract guy. According to ESPN's Tim MacMahon, he's seeking a deal in the three-year, $40 million range.

This means that if the Lakers have to settle for Beverley instead of Leonard or Irving, they would have plenty of cap room to continue adding solid role players to their roster.