Lakers "Have To Be The Favorite" To Land Kawhi

Ian Thomsen explained why Kawhi Leonard might make his way to Los Angeles after all

Taz and the Moose
July 02, 2019 - 10:39 am
Kawhi Leonard

USA Today Images


Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker know where they’re playing basketball next season. Kawhi Leonard does not.

But don’t be surprised if he winds up in Los Angeles.

“Clearly he’s going by his own timetable, but the fact that the Lakers seem to be right in the middle of it, I think sends a really strong signal,” NBA author and insider Ian Thomsen said on Taz & The Moose. “They wouldn’t be in the middle of it unless there was something there. If you think about what his choices are at this point, he can stay in Toronto with a team that barely won the championship and can look to get out of the East every year but probably isn’t as talented as the teams in the West; he can go to the Clippers, who are really building something strong from the ground up, but not a lot of star talent around him; or he can go to the Lakers, where there would be three stars and they will be counting on playing for the championship every single year. I think the Lakers have to be the favorite.”

The Lakers have missed the playoffs in six straight seasons but still managed to acquire Anthony Davis. But would Leonard – who just led Toronto to its first NBA title in franchise history and won another Finals MVP – be willing to become the third banana behind LeBron and AD? Wouldn’t he rather remain the alpha in Toronto?

“He may very well decide that,” Thomsen said. “He may very well decide this is not for him. When you look at the Miami Heat when it was LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh, Chris Bosh was left out. The Celtics’ Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, Ray Allen was always feeling left out. In Cleveland, it was LeBron, Kyrie and Kevin Love. Kevin Love was the third wheel. He was left out. I don’t know how the Lakers will make sense of this unless LeBron tells them, unless he’s telling Kawhi – clearly this is all because LeBron is recruiting Kawhi. This is LeBron’s show, the fact that they’re in there with Kawhi.”

James, however, is entering his 17th NBA season and will turn 35 in December.

“By the end of the season, LeBron will be third all time in minutes in NBA history,” Thomsen said. “Maybe he’s saying to them, ‘I’m the old guy here. I’m going to be setting you guys up. I’m the point guard. I don’t need to be averaging 30 points a game anymore. This is your team. I’m going to be the facilitator.’ Maybe that’s the pitch. Maybe LeBron is going to be more of a pure point guard. I don’t see it. I really don’t see it that way. I think when they’re under pressure, who would you rather have taking the shot and making the play than LeBron James? 

“But it could go either way,” Thomsen continued, “and in the middle of it all you have a guy like Kawhi who is just so difficult to read. I’m just struck by the fact that nobody was talking about the Lakers for the longest time, and now in the last week we’re all talking about the Lakers. These things come by surprise a lot.”

Click below to listen to Thomsen’s interview in its entirety.