As the window nears for LeBron James to let the Cleveland Cavaliers know if he will become a free agent, speculation is at an all-time high.
“That’s the sense you get with him and his people. They’re doing enough research to suggest that he’s going to be willing to take that plunge and let the roster come together. It’s what happened in Cleveland four years ago.”
According to three top ESPN reporters, the front office in Los Angeles hopes to trade for Leonard — who does not wish to return to the San Antonio Spurs — before James has to make his decision on Friday.
But in his report, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski added that the Lakers “did not have a good initial conversation” with the Spurs about a potential deal. He also reported that George “is no longer assured” to sign with Los Angeles this summer. George is reportedly “seriously considering” a return to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but has not ruled out the Lakers either.
Note that a general manager told Wojnarowski that he believes the Lakers could win about 45 games next season even if they just bring back the same core. The price for Leonard would have to include some combination of Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and more.
Tania Ganguli provided more details on the speculation (via Los Angeles Times):
“Hart is part of why the Lakers could be poised to make the playoffs no matter what happens next season. Hart, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball could absolutely form a core that sneaks the Lakers into the playoffs, especially if they can avoid the spate of injuries that slammed them late in the season.”
James has done a phenomenal job of leading his teams to the NBA Finals year after year. While signing with Los Angeles would not assure such a trip once again, they’re absolutely in a better place this offseason than they were last year.
With a lot of cap space to work with, the front office for the Lakers will have plenty of options this summer.