The clock is winding down on Kawhi Leonard’s free agency decision, which has the chance to change the whole NBA landscape. Will the NBA champion head home and pick the Lakers or the Clippers? Or will he stay in Toronto and attempt to repeat? The reports about the Lakers as frontrunners have been heating up but are they truly in the lead?
Andrew Sharp and The Washington Post's Ben Golliver discuss the Lakers chances at winning the Kawhi sweepstakes on the Open Floor podcast.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Andrew Sharp: So here we are. We are all kind of flying blind on this one, which I have really enjoyed the last couple of days. What do you think is actually going to happen here with Kawhi?
Ben Golliver: I had to do a little piece on laying out the pitches on all three teams and I gotta say, there’s good pitches on every side. I don’t think he can necessarily lose here. It’s kind of a win-win-win and it will reveal what his priorities are. If I had to guess based on the Lakers’ moves and how they radically exposed the risks and how they allowed a lot of their other targets to go off the market, I would say that is the biggest tell that we have seen.
Sharp: That’s exactly how I feel.
Golliver: The Anthony Davis trade makes sense if Kawhi is coming. It’s an utter disaster and it is so much risk if he doesn’t come and you miss out on all of these guys. And you don’t have enough assets to trade to go find another guy to fill that max slot out. I am operating under the assumption that Rob Pelinka is not the craziest bricksman. So I am leaning towards the Lakers but you know, I don’t feel very confident about it. How about you?
Sharp: To keep in mind, that was some of the rational that had us looking at the Knicks over the last nine months and saying, ‘Alright, they must know something,’ because it would be insane to conduct business this way if they didn’t. I don’t know if the Lakers have earned much more benefit of the doubt than the Knicks had but I agree with you in large part—the tell to me was D’Angelo Russell panicking and saying, ‘Well, I need to get the max from somebody so let me go to the Warriors’. I think if the Lakers were a little bit more uncertain, I think they would have messaged to Russell’s camp to just hang tight for a couple days because if Kawhi falls through, we can max you out and make this work. That is just my gut feeling, but what I love most about this is that no one seems to have any idea.
Golliver: What’s a better story: Kawhi joins the superteam Lakers or do the superteam Lakers go up in a puff smoke and they are starting Jared Dudley next season?
Sharp: That’s what I love the most, I would enjoy it either way. I am prepared to enjoy Kawhi on the Lakers and we can talk about that if it actually happens. But if it all falls through, after all of the trash that has been thrown out by Lakers’ twitter over the last seven days about not trusting in Pelinka—if it all falls through, it would be one of the most enjoyable stories of the last couple of years.
Golliver: It would be right up there with the Celtics and Anthony Davis. (Laughs.)
Sharp: It would be.