The Los Angeles Lakers’ entire strategy over the past two seasons has been fairly simple when you get down to the bare bones: Establish a young core, get LeBron James, then get another superstar. That last part might be getting a little dicey.
With Paul George committed to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kawhi Leonard is now widely seen as that next superstar the Lakers will be targeting. That’s for good enough reason, as Leonard has not been subtle in his desire to land in Los Angeles. And yet, there might be very real reason to worry for the Lakers.
A survey of NBA executives conducted by ESPN’s Tim Bontemps indicated that the league believes Leonard’s preference in free agency lies with the Los Angeles Clippers, not the Lakers, if the choice comes down to teams in Southern California.
Why Kawhi Leonard might prefer Clippers over Lakers
As it turns out, the idea of playing with LeBron James might be more of a deterrent than an attractive prospect to Leonard:
A survey of several league executives this weekend had the Lakers trailing, even among Staples Center tenants, in the competition to get Leonard, with the LA Clippers universally being placed ahead of them. Rather than seeking to team up with James, the thinking is that Leonard would prefer to have control of his own team, which the Clippers would offer, while still giving him the ability to return to his native Southern California.
On the bright side for the Lakers, we’re still only three weeks into the season and this isn’t even a signal coming from Leonard’s camp. It’s just what decision-makers around basketball believe.
Still, there might be more reason to worry for the Lakers than a month ago. Even going beyond this belief that Leonard prefers the Clippers between the two Staples Center teams, things are going awfully well in Toronto.
The Raptors are 9-1, Kyle Lowry is leading the league in dimes by a chasmic margin and Leonard’s stats are back to his pre-2017 form, if not exceeding them. George spurned the Lakers for a situation in Oklahoma City that is a lot worse than what Leonard has right now up north.
Bad news for the Lakers also came from Bontemps in the form of the fact that Leonard wasn’t even a Lakers fan growing up in California, so the Lakers mystique likely won’t mean anything to superstar. If more whispers come out that Leonard to the Lakers isn’t as probable as some hoped, someone in Los Angeles better have a back-up plan.
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