It seems as though LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard are going to be a package deal at this point, and that package will arrive at either the doorstep of the Staples Center or Wells Fargo Center.
There is considerable buzz that Paul George will re-sign in Oklahoma City, which means the pressure is now on Rob Pelinka, Magic Johnson and the Lakers brass to get a different superstar player in place to lure LeBron to Los Angeles. LeBron seemingly doesn’t want to deal with the free agency chaos that ensues at midnight on July 1, and would prefer the Lakers have someone in place by early next week. The only way that happens is if the Lakers trade for Kawhi in the next few days.
It’s been heralded that the Spurs – specifically head coach Gregg Popovich – doesn’t want to deal with the Lakers given their rivalry with LA over the years. But ESPN reported on Wednesday that “the Spurs haven’t ruled out trading Leonard to the Lakers or another Western Conference team.” The story added that, “San Antonio is unlikely to be motivated to make a deal with Los Angeles – or any team – until they have the leverage to extract every possible asset.”
In other words, the Lakers will likely have to overpay for Kawhi. A smaller deal by a team like the Sixers or Celtics may be more appealing for the Spurs.
Also important to keep in mind is that Popovich wants to coach at least two more seasons. There is buzz that he wants 2020 to be his swan song, as it will also be the year he coaches the USA basketball team in the Olympics. If that’s the case, then the Spurs will want no drama, veteran players in return. San Antonio went 47-35 in the rugged Western Conference last season without Kawhi, and there is a feeling that if they got their hands on a Dario Saric or a Jaylen Brown that Popovich would be able to make it work immediately.
The Lakers do not have many Spurs prototypes on their current roster to dangle (guessing Pop wouldn’t be a fan of LaVar Ball et all).
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So, if the Sixers can get out ahead of this thing and land Kawhi – then they will have a phenomenal shot at landing LeBron. It could actually make them the favorites by Sunday … but the clock be a tickin’.