We’re now less than a week away from the start of free agency, when we’ll finally learn the fate of LeBron James, Paul George, and the rest of this summer’s star-studded crop of players and how their decisions will cause ripple effects across the league, possibly for years to come.
But all the buzz in recent days has surrounded Kawhi Leonard, who after a tumultuous, injury-riddled season in San Antonio has a requested a trade and made clear that he prefers to be dealt to his hometown Lakers. The Spurs, for their part, have insisted that they’re focused on repairing the relationship, and initial reports revealed that the Lakers came away from their opening talks feeling less than optimistic about their chances.
The organization is no doubt feeling the pressure to make a deal for Kawhi, given that it would make landing LeBron this summer significantly more likely, and the most recent reports indicate that they’ve not only resumed talks with San Antonio, but they are taking a much more aggressive approach this time around.
And it’s just in time, because it appears multiple teams have now thrown their hats into the ring, according to Ramona Shelburne, Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
The Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers and LA Clippers are among teams who have made offers to the Spurs for Leonard, league sources said. The Lakers, the franchise Leonard wants to be traded to, did not have an encouraging initial conversation with the Spurs, ESPN reported recently.
If Leonard can convince the rest of the teams interested in trading for him that he’ll only be a one-year rental before signing with Los Angeles in 2019, the Lakers could have the most compelling trade package to offer San Antonio.
It’s unclear exactly how open the Spurs are to making a deal, but the more offers they listen, the more likely they are to hear something too enticing to pass up. San Antonio’s front office has expressed some reluctance to trade Kawhi to another Western Conference team, so it’ll depend on just how confident they feel about salvaging their relationship with Kawhi versus the risk of hanging on to him this season only to lose him for nothing next summer.
As they note, the Lakers likely can’t put together the best package in a vacuum, but the fear of other teams that Leonard will bolt next summer for L.A. will keep some of their best assets off the table. Couple that with the Lakers apparently feeling a bit of pressure to land Leonard before LeBron hits free agency, and they may be willing to put together a substantial offer that will make San Antonio think.
Make no mistake, the Spurs will do their due diligence. They’re arguably the savviest organization in the league – the Kawhi debacle notwithstanding – so regardless of how many bloodthirsty teams are lining up around them, it’s going to be tough to swindle them out of deal that won’t be mutually beneficial .