While seemingly most other NBA free agents picked their 2019-20 teams the moment the June 30 negotiating period opened, NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard has the basketball world waiting. And waiting.
Now his indecisiveness could push back the Los Angeles Lakers’ acquisition of All-Star Anthony Davis, if only briefly.
Because the Lakers are holding back from any other major moves until finding out whether they will have Leonard on their roster next season, their trade for Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans — originally meant to become official on July 6 — may reportedly need to be pushed back, unless Leonard’s decision comes down by noon EDT on Saturday, according to ESPN.
Leonard, a current unrestricted free agent who led the Toronto Raptors to their first championship last month, is still deciding between the Raptors and a pair of his hometown teams from Los Angeles: the Lakers and Clippers.
A source told ESPN on Friday that for now the three teams other than the Lakers affected by the Davis deal — the Pelicans, Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks — all are “expected to cooperate” with L.A. if Leonard waits deeper into Saturday and beyond.
Per ESPN, the difference between the Lakers adding Leonard before or after the Saturday deadline is important, pending the other teams’ being agreeable. The Lakers hope to have a $32 million-per-year slot available for a max free agent deal if Leonard picks them, but L.A.’s salary-cap space would drop to $30 million available if they have to wait past July 6 for Leonard, if the Pelicans, Hawks and Wizards fail to cooperate.
The reason? The Lakers traded for Davis — sending Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and three first-round picks to New Orleans — with the belief they would have a $32 million cap figure available for a superstar free agent signing. Translation: The Lakers could offer Leonard a maximum four-year, $127 million deal compared to a $127 million package if the other teams aren’t willing to wait.
The other related moves after the Davis agreement are on hold until the Lakers find out about Leonard. They include the Pelicans’ pre-draft shift of draft picks, including the Lakers’ original No. 4 overall selection, to Atlanta for a pick package, as well as the Lakers’ trade of three young players (Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga, Jemerrio Jones) plus a future second-rounder to the Wizards, with Washington sending cash to New Orleans. The latter move helped the Lakers max out their possible cap space after the Davis dealings.
Leonard opted out of the final year of his contract with the Raptors. The three-time All-Star and two-time Finals MVP has played for the San Antonio Spurs (seven seasons) and Toronto (one season), winning a pair of NBA titles.
—Field Level Media