Things have quieted down on the NBA trade market of late but there are already rumblings about what could happen in early 2019, ahead of the trade deadline. Kawhi Leonard has passed his physical in Toronto but it is still unknown if he will be ready to go on opening night. The thinking is that he will be a good soldier at first up north, but things could get ugly in Toronto quickly if the Raptors get off to a slow start. Kawhi has never embraced the role of bona fide team leader as he always had Tim Duncan or Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker to lead the way. It also helped that he had one of the more accomplished NBA coaches of all-time guiding the way in San Antonio. Kyle Lowry is expected to be the director for the Raptors this season, but unproven coach Nick Nurse will surely be tested right away by the prickly Leonard. All this is why Raptors Kawhi Leonard Lakers NBA Trade Rumors are starting to heat up.
It is important to remember that the Raptors had the same infrastructure since 2012 prior to this offseason with Dwane Casey leading the way, DeMar DeRozan as the go-to option of offense, and Lowry running the point. Two members of that core are now gone and as we saw with the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, it can sometimes take a while to adjust when it comes to superstar players being thrown together – let alone with a brand spanking new coach.
There has also been a theory out there since the time of the blockbuster trade that Kawhi is so frustrated at what has transpired in his career for the past year and a half that he’s willing to more or less sit out an entire season “due to injury” unless he finally gets his way and lands with the Lakers.
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“Nobody knows if Leonard is healthy enough to regain status as a top-five player and MVP candidate,” ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote at the time of the trade. “Suitors feared his impending free agency and his reported preference for one of the LA teams. His camp made it very clear to the Raptors and other teams that Leonard wanted no part of Toronto, sources say.”
Recent Las Vegas odds that have higher than expected figures for the Lakers to win the 2019 NBA title and the Raptors owning lower than expected numbers bear that out. The Ringer’s Bill Simmons and former ESPN host Ryen Russillo talked about this on Simmons’ podcast last week.
“Looking at the Western Conference odds, Golden State is minus-220. Houston is 5-1. The Lakers are 8-1. That doesn’t make sense,” Simmons said.
Russillo believes that the higher than expected Lakers odds were due entirely to the LeBron factor but it’s hard to imagine Los Angeles getting anywhere close to toppling Golden State unless they brought in another star player before the trade deadline. Perhaps Vegas is already factoring that in.
“That 8-1 is basically saying we’re banking on LeBron [forcing the Lakers] to trade for another guy. He can’t win the West with the team he [currently] has.”
If the Raptors get out to say, a .500 start in the weak Eastern Conference and Kawhi is disgruntled, expect the Raptors Kawhi Leonard Lakers NBA Trade Rumors to start up yet again.
Raptors President Masai Ujiri would be feeling the pressure to get anything back for Leonard at that point, and the Lakers could wind up getting him for a song.
Raptors Kawhi Leonard Lakers NBA Trade Rumors JR Smith Rockets latest
Lowe also said last week on his podcast that the Houston Rockets have “kicked the tires” on Cavaliers swingman JR Smith. The Rockets have virtually nothing left in the tank to make a trade for a player like Smith but the Cavaliers may be tempted to dump Smith at some point given that he could disrupt their locker room if things start to go south. The Lakers could also be a destination for Smith at some point given his ties to LeBron. Above are Raptors Kawhi Leonard Lakers NBA Trade Rumors with the latest information on JR Smith possibly landing with the Rockets.