The Los Angeles Lakers are far from finished after trading for Anthony Davis, as they reportedly plan to pursue Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in free agency.
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reported the Lakers’ planned pursuit of Leonard, which has been expected the entire season.
Leonard, who turns 28 later this month, expressed a desire to play in Los Angeles when he requested a trade from the San Antonio Spurs last offseason. The Clippers have since become the most regularly talked-about destination if Kawhi were to leave Toronto after one season.
Leonard leaving the Raptors after winning Finals MVP would be unprecedented but not all that surprising, as the entire playoffs have been built around him being a different type of player. The Raptors’ best chance at keeping him may be offering up a two-year deal with a third-year option, which would get him to 10 years of service while also keeping his long-term options open.
Of course, other teams can offer Leonard the same deal. If Kawhi is looking to recoup some of the financial losses from leaving the Raptors, taking that two-year route is the smartest option. He could re-enter free agency at age 30 and command up to 35 percent of the salary cap, which will undoubtedly be higher in 2021 than it is this summer.
The Lakers are an odd basketball fit for Kawhi. Kyle Kuzma is the only one of their young core they kept in the Davis trade, and he’s a 4. The Lakers frontcourt of the future appears set with Davis, Kuzma and James. It would stand to reason that they prioritize a backcourt solution like Kemba Walker or Kyrie Irving over Leonard.
A LeBron-Kawhi-AD-Kuzma core would give teams matchup problems because of their incredible size advantage and switchability on defense. It would also leave them needing to scrape the bargain bin for a trove of guards who can shoot and defend opposing point guards.