Two summers ago, Paul George seemed destined to end up with the Los Angeles Lakers. Last summer, it was Kawhi Leonard that was supposed to don the purple and gold.

L.A. watched as both players were traded elsewhere, and those deals loom large over the 2019 NBA offseason.

The Lakers will be able to offer a max contract to one player this summer. Despite signing LeBron James in July, Los Angeles is not the favorite to sign any of the true superstars that will be available.

Kevin Durant is expected by most insiders to sign with the New York Knicks. Klay Thompson is almost sure to stay with the Golden State Warriors. Kyrie Irving is likely to choose between the Boston Celtics and one of the teams in the Big Apple, though the Lakers are an option for the point guard.

Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker might consider signing with the Lakers as free agents, but they are a tier below the best players that will be looking for max contracts.

When Leonard requested a trade last offseason, it was known that he wanted to be sent to Los Angeles. An L.A. team is the heavy favorite to sign Leonard this offseason, but it’s not the Lakers. The Clippers are reportedly very confident about their chances to sign the two-time Defensive Player of the Year if he decides to leave the Toronto Raptors.

There are mixed rumors regarding whether or not the Lakers had a real chance to acquire Leonard in a trade. Some believe the San Antonio Spurs would’ve never sent their best player to the Lakers. But team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka might never even have made a strong offer that San Antonio would've had to consider.

Kawhi Leonard Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors runs down the floor in the first half against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on January 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. Rob Carr/Getty Images

Leonard might be leaning toward the Clippers now, but it’s hard to believe he would’ve turned down a max offer from the Lakers had the team traded for him shortly after signing James. Despite how poorly the Lakers have played this season, it’s easy to imagine James and Leonard forming the biggest threat to the Warriors in their quest to repeat as NBA champions.

If the Lakers are unable to sign one of the aforementioned stars this summer, they will likely regret not forcing the Spurs to turn down an offer that included Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and future draft picks.

Why trade your best assets for a player that might very well sign with you as a free agent in a year? That was the argument—and a seemingly reasonable one—against the Lakers making the Spurs a “Godfather” offer for Leonard.

The Lakers also risked trading for Leonard and losing him to another team a year later in free agency.

It was a similar situation when the Lakers didn’t make the Indiana Pacers a compelling offer for George in the 2017 offseason.

George told the Pacers he planned to leave as a free agent in 2018 if he wasn’t traded, and it was no secret that he wanted to go to the Lakers. Los Angeles refused to trade the No.2 pick in that year’s draft—which ended up being Lonzo Ball—or Ingram for George. Indiana instead sent George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Do you think Los Angeles would do a George-for-Ball swap now?

Of course, hindsight is 20/20 when it comes to the Lakers’ attempts to land George. At the time, it seemed like a fair assumption that George would leave Oklahoma City as a free agent to play alongside James in his hometown of Los Angeles.

George didn’t even meet with the Lakers last summer, agreeing to a four-year, $137 million contract with the Thunder. He has turned into an even better player than the All-Star he was in Indiana, performing like an MVP candidate for the 2018-2019 season.

Maybe Los Angeles will end up completing a trade for Anthony Davis. Perhaps Irving will spurn the Celtics and both New York teams, or a combination of Jimmy Butler and another solid addition will be good enough to make the Lakers a contender.

If the Lakers swing and miss on every top star this July, they might look back at those trades that didn’t happen as missed opportunities that altered the trajectory of the franchise for years to come.