The 2018-19 NBA regular season schedule has officially been released and the Los Angeles Lakers will host Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center on Sunday, Nov. 4.
Although the San Antonio Spurs ultimately traded Leonard to the Raptors, he will be constantly linked to the Lakers — similarly to Paul George, who re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder in free agency this summer.
As the 27-year-old Leonard is set to become a 2019 free agent, the Lakers are well-positioned to sign him next year.
After signing LeBron James to a four-year, $153 million contract, the Lakers filled out the remainder of the roster with one-year deals. As a result, they have preserved enough salary cap space to sign Leonard to a max contract as well.
Although the Lakers had an opportunity to trade for Leonard, the asking price from the Spurs was simply too much.. In addition, James was comfortable with the team’s young core and did not push the front office to make a trade before committing.
With Leonard only visiting Los Angeles once this season, he is expected to receive cheers from the Staples Center crowd. While the Lakers are taking a risk by waiting for Leonard in free agency, there is an opportunity to win in the present and future if he eventually makes his way back home.