Lakers fans everywhere were hoping to see Kawhi Leonard in purple and gold this season, and it’s easy to see why. In 2011, Leonard was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. In 2014, he was named Finals MVP as he helped San Antonio defeat LeBron’s Miami Heat. Since then, he’s made the All-NBA First Team twice, and taken home two Defensive Player of the Year awards.
With the recent trade between the Spurs and Raptors, this no longer looks like a possibility. But could this be a blessing in disguise for the Lakers and their fans?
Leonard has expressed his desire to play in Los Angeles. He went to high school in Riverside and played college ball at San Diego State University, so wanting to play for the Lakers seems natural. However, the Spurs weren’t so enthusiastic about that idea and shipped him off to Toronto.
The only way Kawhi was going to join the Lakers this season in a trade was if Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson sent back some of our exciting young players. This meant the Lakers would lose some combination of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, or Summer League MVP Josh Hart. The trade would also have to include one or two future first round draft picks. Since the Lakers have been very successful in the draft lately, this wasn’t ideal.
The alternative was to wait for Kawhi to become a free agent after this season, and then try to sign him without giving up any assets. There are risks to this strategy, as Kawhi may actually have a change of heart and begin to enjoy his current situation in Toronto.
However, the trade to the Raptors makes a change of heart seem unlikely which is great for the Lakers. If he wanted to return to his Southern California roots, what are the chances he’s going to suddenly enjoy living on the opposite side of the continent? He wasn’t just trying to leave San Antonio, he was literally trying to live and play in Los Angeles. While Toronto is a great city, it isn’t exactly what he had in mind.
The Lakers needed the Spurs to trade him somewhere that he isn’t going to enjoy, and it looks like that may have happened. Kawhi to the Lakers in 2020 is a real possibility. In the upcoming NBA 2K19 video game he didn’t receive a 98 rating like LeBron, but he’s pretty close…
9⃣4⃣for @kawhileonard. Who won the trade? #NBA2K19 pic.twitter.com/uEKjkGKpCi
— NBA 2K19 (@NBA2K) July 19, 2018
Contact Ryan Ramsey on Twitter @DoubleR818