The moment NBA fans waited a long time for finally happened over the weekend: Kawhi Leonard, reigning Finals MVP, made his decision on where he’d be playing next.
Many fans thought the Lakers were a favorite to sign Leonard, and were surprised by this decision. Multiple reports from NBA “insiders” said that Leonard was only even deciding between the Lakers and the Toronto Raptors. However, he chose to stay in LA but for the Clippers- meaning that in the majority of fans’ eyes, no team in the NBA will have a trio of superstars next season, a level of parity in the league we have not seen since 2009.
The Clippers were also able to work out a deal with the OKC Thunder to bring Paul George to the team as well, making this offseason an extremely successful one for them.
For the Lakers though, the Kawhi to Clippers news hurt them in 2 ways.
#1: The Lakers have historically always been seen as and have acted as the “big brother” to the Clippers- even though they share a stadium, they have always been thought of as LA’s team. So to see a free agent spurn the Lakers to choose the Clippers instead, especially with the Lakers’ poor performances on the court over the past few years, this may be shifting in the Clippers favor.
#2: Free agency just opened on Sunday, June 30. It’s just now been a week. However, with the amount of deals that were signed within the first 3 days, Kawhi making the Lakers wait until Friday meant that the Lakers missed out on quite a few potential pieces that they’d have been looking at much earlier had they not been focused on keeping that cap space open for Leonard.
The Lakers were able to make a flurry of deals happen to fill out their roster, which at the time of free agency starting, only consisted of three players- Lebron, Kyle Kuzma, and Anthony Davis.
LA re-signed a good amount of free agents that had been on the team last year, and also signed quite a few small deals from free agents off of other teams. Right after Kawhi’s decision came out, the Lakers were able to ink two important deals- signing G/F Danny Green and C Demarcus Cousins to bolster their starting lineup.
So this is what the Lakers’ roster looks like currently:
It must be said, after having three players total on their roster less than a week ago, the Lakers did well to put together a solid roster on paper. However, it is definitely an issue that 6 of these players are coming from a different team, meaning they will all have to gel on the fly once the season starts. This could lead to some early season struggles as players learn how each other play, so I would not be surprised to see the Lakers stumble out of the gate in October and November.
One final player I could see the Lakers targeting over the next couple days:
Kyle Korver (soon to be bought out by Suns)- Adds shooting which there can never be enough of, especially playing with LeBron who thrives with shooters around him. Has played with LeBron already for multiple seasons, veteran presence who has played in NBA Finals before.
It will be very interesting to see how this year’s Lakers team plays out. They remain, even without Kawhi, a favorite to win next year’s title, and LeBron with AD is as dynamic a combo as the NBA has ever seen. It will be fun to watch!