‘Pressure mounting’ on Lakers to trade for Kawhi Leonard

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LeBron James is apparently hesitant to go to L.A. without another star being there.

James' reluctance to speak with the Cavs heightens the excitement over the prospect of him bringing his talents to the Los Angeles Lakers., the odds-on favorites to acquire James this offseason.

With LeBron James facing a Friday deadline on whether to opt out of his contract with the Cavaliers, the Lakers are under pressure to sweeten the landing spot for the superstar by trading for Spurs All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard before then, according to ESPN. 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 previous year. James had been clear that he wouldn't engage with the Cavaliers throughout the pre-draft and pre-free-agent process, and he has stayed consistent with that posture. This automatically disqualifies them from going with the potential James-George combination. The Cavaliers would likely have to part ways with a lot of first round picks.

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Removing his salary from the 76ers' payroll (and taking nothing back) will leave the team with roughly $39.0 million in space - more than enough to sign a max player. To lessen this hypothetical blow, the Sixers and head coach Brett Brown would have to come to some sort of a verbal agreement with Leonard's camp on an extension. "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".

That help would most likely come in the form of Kawhi Leonard or Paul George - or, ideally, both - but there are some other possibilities, including Chris Paul, James's longtime friend. There's also risk in landing Leonard only to have James choose another team. Everybody is connected with each other and whoever makes the first move could change the National Basketball Association landscape next season.