LeBron Reveals the Reason Why the Lakers Did Not Trade for Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs looks for a pass while under pressure from LeBron James, then #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half at Quicken Loans Arena on January 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The duo could play together in Los Angeles from 2019, should Leonard become a free agent next year. Jason Miller/Getty Images

The most surprising aspect of LeBron James signing with the Los Angeles Lakers is that he is yet to be joined by another All-Star player.

In fact, bar a major surprise, the three-time NBA champion will be the only All-Star plying his trade in purple and yellow next season.

Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were both thought to be keen to move to Los Angeles and some even suggested the Lakers would sign one of them to convince LeBron to swap Cleveland for California.

As it turned out, LeBron had already made his mind up but neither George nor Leonard joined him at the Staples Center, with the former signing a four-year extension with Oklahoma, while the latter was traded to Toronto.

However, it has since emerged that LeBron was the reason behind the Lakers' decision not to pursue Leonard as aggressively as most in the NBA would have expected.

"Because I love the young guys [the Lakers] have, and I'm not trying to force my hand in no way, shape or form," the four-time MVP said during an interview with ESPN when asked why his new team had not moved for the former Spurs power forward.

"I believe [Rob] Pelinka and [Magic] Johnson have done an unbelievable job of reshaping what the organization should be, keeping Dr. [Jerry] Buss' dreams and what he was all about, to keep that going. I feel like they know what's best for the team and I wanted to be a piece […] to continue that motion of being back to a championship franchise where they should be."

In the likes of Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball, the Lakers have one of the most exciting groups of young players in the whole NBA, second perhaps only to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Early last month, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski hinted the Spurs would have demanded the Lakers' young crop in its entirety, minus Lonzo Ball, to allow Leonard to move to back to his hometown.

While the prospect of pairing the 2014 NBA Finals MVP with LeBron would have almost immediately transformed the Lakers into one of the favorites in the Western Conference, L.A. felt dismembering its young team was too big a price to pay.

Almost certainly, LeBron alone is unlikely to be enough to drag the Lakers to a first NBA Finals appearance since 2010, given the Western Conference's superior competitiveness to its eastern counterpart.

However, by keeping their young core intact, the 16-time NBA champions have not jeopardized their chances of securing Leonard, who could become a free agent next summer.

Given Leonard was understood to have "no desire to play in Toronto" when the trade between the Raptors and Spurs was finalized, that does not seem beyond the realm of possibility.

The Raptors, for their part, remain adamant they can convince him to stay in Canada, as the Thunder did with George, whose one-year rental in Oklahoma was extended until 2022 last month.