The past two offseasons in the NBA have changed the landscape of basketball. In 2016, Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors. In 2017, a record number of stars — such as Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, and Paul George — changed teams.
2018 won’t be any different. Not only is LeBron James deciding on a new team, but many other stars may be on the move. On Friday, ESPN’s Chris Haynes was the first to break news of Kawhi Leonard’s future plans.
Kawhi Leonard wants out of San Antonio, league sources tell ESPN.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 15, 2018
Multiple other reporters confirmed this, signaling Leonard’s situation with the San Antonio Spurs is indeed unsalvageable. After a lost year plagued by an unusual leg injury and weird tension with his team, Kawhi Leonard has an uncertain future. But at his peak, he’s a NBA MVP candidate and one of the best defenders the league has seen this decade.
Adrian Wojnarowski also indicated that the L.A. Clippers and Boston Celtics are interested in Leonard. Since Leonard only has one year on his contract (he has a player option for 2019-2020), trading for him could be dangerous if he decides to leave next offseason.
But if the L.A. Lakers are able to trade for Leonard while dumping salary, they could theoretically sign both Paul George, who is widely considered likely to sign with the Lakers, and LeBron James. Though this is an unlikely possibility, the Leonard-James-George trio could probably challenge the Warriors well, and is well worth the risk.
LeBron James doesn’t seem likely to stay in Cleveland, and the Lakers are definitely on his shortlist. But the team is young, and unless they are able to trade their young prospects for proven talent, it might not be the right place for him to win right now. The Sixers, who also have the cap space to sign him for the max, have a similar timeline problem. But regardless, James has proven that he can singlehandedly make any team a contender.
Frankly, there are no great options for James and the other superstar free agents. There are few contenders, and those who need to make upgrades don’t have much cap room or tradeable assets to facilitate a move that matters. Only eight teams are projected to have cap space at all, and most of them are years away from contention.
But the gap seems to be closing between the Warriors and the rest of the league, and a new superteam could take them down. Whether it’s the Lakers, the Rockets or anybody else, bring it on.