“In The Scope With Joshua M. Hicks” is a weekly column from the Managing Editor of WARR
When it comes to NBA off seasons, you never know what is going to happen.
This year, July 1st cannot come fast enough due to LeBron James’ “Decision 3.0” being in full effect to go along with the Paul George sweepstakes. But just within these past few hours, more gasoline has been added to an already lit upcoming summer, and possibly sparked an early parade for the city of Los Angeles.
Overtime, situational factors have taken over financial factors when it comes to the superstar’s future in the league. Due to a strained relationship between Spurs management and their star Kawhi Leonard over the recovery of Leonard’s injury, Leonard has made it official that he wants out of San Antonio and marked that the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers are his preferred trade destinations. He is willing to leave a supermax extension of 200+ million dollars due to growing uncomfortable with the Spurs organization, according to Yahoo Sports reporter Shams Charania.
This is the domino effect that James and the rest of the league to help make the best decisions for their respected franchises. With that being said, do not be surprised if you see the next Western Conference three-headed monster in purple and gold next season and the Lakers have to thank Magic Johnson for his efforts.
When Magic Johnson took over the Lakers, he was put in a near impossible situation thanks to former general manager Mitch Kupchak signing ridiculous contracts to Timofey Mozgofv and Luol Deng and the big contract extension to Jordan Clarkson. With rumors speculating that Paul George wants to come home to play for the Lakers and the King would possibly be looking at the Lakers as a premier destination next season as long as they have the cap space to bring in an extra superstar, those contracts limit the cap space to fulfill those needs.
However, he pulled an impossible move by trading Clarkson’s big contract and teammate Larry Nance to the Cavs and Mozgov’s big contract to the Nets at the trade deadline, creating the space for the two max-deals to possibly bring those talented superstars in. Now that the Lakers have the cap space, they can actively pursue those targeted free agents, but combining that with Leonard expressing high interest in being traded to the Lakers, LA does not just have the highest chances of getting the triple effect of James, George and Leonard, but also getting them to stay long-term.
Granted, many teams will most likely go after the top two-way player in the game, especially the Knicks and Clippers, however they do not have the ideal pieces that would attract the Spurs enough to ship Leonard to their respective cities. The Celtics are suppose to be in the bidding war for Leonard and they have very attractive pieces to acquire the two-time defensive player of the year, but their issue is using star players are rentals, and without Leonard’s commitment to a long term deal upon arrival, it is impossible to see Danny Ainge trading away his future of young assets for a one-year rental, especially since he is possibly looking into trade Kyrie Irving since he has made it public that he will not sign an extension.
Before we give the notion that Leonard is coming to a legendary Lakers franchise, we must admit that this is an imminent situation. The Spurs may not want to trade their star to a team that can potentially create another super team within the same conference as them.
There is no guarantee that Leonard wants to play with King James. If the Lakers do get Leonard, should the Lakers go after Chris Paul or Damian Lillard instead of George in preparation to possibly receive James’ commitment? Do you wait on Leonard for next year since he will be a guaranteed free agent next year?
These are questions that the Lakers have to find the answers to, but with Magic being the face of the franchise, their valuable young assets, increased rumors of The King looking into their city, Paul George coming with and Leonard wanting to join the sweepstakes, Lakers fans have a lot to be hopeful for this offseason.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio