Lakers are Playing a Dangerous Game Waiting on Kawhi Leonard


Kawhi Leonard has yet to make a decision in free agency and is probably a few days away from doing so. That’s a really scary proposition for the teams competing for his services, but it’s especially dangerous for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers currently have just four players under contract at the NBA level for next season. LeBron JamesAnthony DavisKyle Kuzmaand the recently-signed Troy Daniels make up the entire roster. They also have second-round pick Talen Horton-Tucker, restricted free agent holds on Alex Caruso and Johnathan Williams and cap holds on several veterans. That’s not much of a squad.

While they’ve been waiting for Leonard to make up his mind, the Lakers have watched some of their other targets get snapped up. Seth CurryPatrick BeverleyD'Angelo Russell and Reggie Bullock have all inked deals with other teams while LA stood pat and waited. Any combination of those players would have been a great fit for a team centered on James and Davis. Instead, the Lakers passed on getting involved and waited.

If Leonard chooses the Lakers, all of this will be forgotten. A “Big Three” of James, Davis and Leonard will be so good the surrounding pieces won’t matter a whole lot. But if Kawhi opts to return to the Toronto Raptors or somehow lands with the Los Angeles Clippers, this waiting game will prove to have been a huge waste of time. The Lakers will have missed out on pouring resources into a balanced roster around James and Davis, and instead have $32 million in cap space available and no one left to use it on.

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka wound up pulling off the Anthony Davis trade, which relieved pressure on him for the time being. But then he pushed all his chips in on trying to land Leonard. If he misses out, he’ll be right back on the hot seat.