Phoenix Suns make Arizona's DeAndre Ayton NBA Draft's top pick - but it's the destination of LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard that have basketball fans buzzing into the off-season

Mail Online | 6/22/2018 | Alex Raskin For
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Thursday night’s NBA Draft was not notable for who went first overall to the Phoenix Suns. Arizona center DeAndre Ayton was virtually assured of going No. 1 weeks before commissioner Adam Silver even called his name at the top of the broadcast.

Rather, it was the immediate future of two absent NBA stars - Cleveland Cavaliers legend LeBron James and, to a lesser extent, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard - who dominated conversations inside of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

James - MVP - NBA - Finals - Defeat

James, the four-time MVP coming off another NBA Finals defeat to the Golden State Warriors, is expected to either opt out of his current contract or use his leverage to force a trade to a contender in pursuit of his fourth title. Leonard, meanwhile, has been unhappy in San Antonio and is reportedly trying to force a deal to the Los Angeles Lakers — although an ESPN report on Friday claimed such a trade is unlikely at the moment.

If the Lakers did somehow acquire Leonard - perhaps by offering prized youngsters Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma - they could entice James to sign a maximum contract, worth upwards of $35 million per season when free agency begins in July. They might even have enough cap space left over to sign Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star and Los Angeles native Paul George, too.

Lakers - Fans - Thursday - Draft - Team

But to the Lakers fans who attended Thursday’s draft, even though their team didn’t have a high pick, Leonard seemed like the obvious first step towards rebuilding one of the NBA’s most celebrated franchises.

It certainly helps the Lakers’ case that James owns a home in Los Angeles and his son, 13-year-old son LeBron 'Bronny' James Jr., is enrolling in a local high school.

76ers - Fans - Lakers - Track - James

Even 76ers fans had to admit that the Lakers have the inside track to acquire James.

‘Right now, probably L.A....
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