Lakers, 76ers believe landing Kawhi Leonard is key to signing LeBron James

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard celebrates sinking a basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks onTuesday Dec. 12 2017 in Dallas

Los Angeles Lakers under pressure to pull off Kawhi Leonard trade: report

"LeBron James reached out to Kevin Durant via text, from what I'm told, about coming to Los Angeles". According to the ESPN report, the Lakers came away from their initial conversation with San Antonio about Leonard as if the Spurs had "shut the door on us". Following all that news early in the day, Ramona Shelburne dropped this late at night.

According to ESPN, the Lakers believe landing Leonard may be the key to getting James in free agency. They have established stars in Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Gordon Hayward. They also could pursue Chris Paul of the Rockets, who can become an unrestricted free agent Saturday after spending one season in Houston after last summer's trade from the Clippers. This means the ideal time to make a trade for those chasing after Kawhi is now.

- Kyle Kuzma wants to stay?

"This will be about more than just this summer's transaction".

Multiple teams have reportedly made trade offers to the Spurs for Leonard, who can't opt out of his contract until next year.

The one constant in everything is Brandon Ingram.

As for Leonard and the Spurs, it appears as though their relationship is beyond fix. That presumably would include Brandon Ingram, the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft and the Lakers' most promising young player, plus a combination of future first-round picks and other young talent, such as Lonzo Ball, the second overall pick a year ago, Kyle Kuzma and/or Josh Hart.

When you consider everything, it truly seems that the Lakers have all the leverage on the Spurs. By the end of the offseason it will probably show that the vast majority of moves will be affected by what James does as veterans delay their own decisions on the chance they might be able to join James' team.

But with the probability of Paul George sticking with the OKC Thunder, it is most important that the Lakers acquire Leonard first as James will not take the bait without another superstar in the team. Don't go full-blown "Godfather" and offer all of the assets I listed above, but be aggressive. That incentives the Lakers even further - in a way that doesn't apply to Philadelphia - to trade for him.

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