Kawhi Leonard has finally been traded, and despite all of the speculation suggesting otherwise, he did not wind up with the Los Angeles Lakers (yet).
Instead, the San Antonio Spurs decided to send Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors in a trade for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a top-20 protected first round pick.
The haul certainly isn’t as much as the Spurs were rumored to be asking for, but DeRozan should allow them to stay competitive in a difficult Western Conference.
The Lakers were reportedly not very interested in giving up assets in order to bring in Leonard now, instead opting to wait until next summer when they can target him in free agency.
According to Bruce Arthur, who appeared on the “Back To Back” podcast, Leonard is already preparing for his chance to be a free agent by contacting other stars to discuss teaming up:
“One thing I was told [Tuesday] night is that Kawhi Leonard had already been planning out his free agency for next year. And he’s already been in contact with other star players in the league, saying, ‘Hey, where might you want to play with me? What are we looking at?’ And it wasn’t just L.A. he was talking about. Brooklyn was maybe somewhere; they’re going to have a ton of cap space. So Kawhi has already been thinking ahead to pairing up and trying to play at the highest level. If you can give him a team that can play at the highest level, if the Raptors can build a true contender, not an Eastern contender, an NBA championship contender, that plus an extra $50 million in Bird Rights, it’s the best argument they can make.”
The Lakers will indeed be a strong favorite as the landing spot for Leonard since he reportedly requested to be sent to Los Angeles in a trade this summer. Moreover, they possess not only the cap space to sign him but also have LeBron James already on board.
Still, a lot can change in a year, as the Lakers found out when Paul George left everyone scratching their heads when he decided to re-sign with Oklahoma City rather than return home to play for the Lakers.
That said, Leonard is not George, and there is no indication of whether or not Toronto can convince him to stay. General manager Masai Ujiri is embracing the uphill battle he presumably faces to convince Leonard to remain with the Raptors beyond this season.
If nothing changes, Leonard’s wish of joining the Lakers could very well come true next summer.
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