Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard is keen to move back to Los Angeles and the Lakers and Clippers are options in 2019. In this picture, Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors runs down the floor in the first half against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., Jan. 13, 2019. Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers have constantly been linked with trade moves for a number of players since the 2018-19 season began with many believing that they need to strengthen further in order to become genuine contenders for a place in the post-season playoffs.

The Lakers signed LeBron James in the offseason on a four-year deal, and he has not disappointed putting in top quality performances night after night. After a slow start to the campaign, Luke Walton’s team climbed up to fourth in the Western Conference making a genuine case to make the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

But an injury to James on Christmas Day has put their plans in jeopardy as the Lakers have lost 7-11 without their talisman, which has seen them drop to eighth place in the West. They still have plenty of time to make a return and should do so with the small forward expected to return from injury in the coming week at the latest.

The vulnerability of the Lakers without James has led many to believe that they need a second star on the team who can lead them when the three-time NBA champion is not at his best. They have been linked with the likes of Bradley Beal, John Wall, Trevor Ariza and Anthony Davis in recent months.

However, they have to be cautious to act on their needs mid-season as it could compromise their cap space, which if untouched will allow them to sign a big free agent in the summer. And the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Jimmy Butler will be on the market come July 2019.

And according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Lakers’ president of basketball operations Magic Johnson is keen to sign one of Leonard or Durant in the summer as they will certainly make his team immediate title contenders. But there is a chance they might not wait that long.

The NBA expert believes they could still make a trade before the deadline on February but only if New Orleans Pelicans forward Davis becomes available. He is regarded as one of the top three in the NBA and he would also have the same effect Durant or Leonard will have, but it will be instant for this season.

“I’ve been told Magic wants a chance this summer to convince KD or Kawhi to come to the Lakers, so it seems very unlikely they trade for an All-Star this season… unless Anthony Davis were to become available,” Windhorst told ESPN LA, as transcribed by Fade Away World

But it is very unlikely that Davis will be put up for a trade before the end of the current campaign with Pelicans making it clear they are not interested to let go of their biggest asset. He could, however, become available in the summer if he rejects their offer of a supermax deal worth $239 million.

The power forward will certainly not be short of suitors, and if it drags on until the summer, the Boston Celtics – longtime admirers of the player, are certain to be big players.