Why Kawhi Leonard's Future Could Hit LeBron's Free Agency Plans

The future of LeBron James has been subject of speculation since the season began and it could now be directly linked to that of Kawhi Leonard.

The three-time NBA champion is widely expected to opt out of his final year with the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer to explore his options in the market and there is the distinct possibility he might leave Ohio for a second time.

The Los Angeles Lakers, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Houston Rockets have all been billed as potential destinations for LeBron, who has been largely non-committal over his future.

While rumours over what James will do in the summer started even before the season began, suggestions Leonard might be looking to leave San Antonio have only gathered momentum in recent weeks.

The 2014 NBA Finals MVP has not played since January and continues to recover from a lingering injury which has caused significant friction between him and the Spurs, with coach Gregg Popovich suggesting earlier this week he had no idea of when Leonard would return.

The impasse over the 26-year-old's future only increased amid reports that this summer San Antonio might not offer him the five-year extension worth $219 million he wants.

Should Leonard not be offered the supermax deal he wants, the Spurs are expected to trade him and a number of teams, including the Los Angeles Clippers, are understood to be already working on a trade package.

According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, Leonard's future will have major repercussions on what happens to LeBron.

"Where Kawhi ends up this season will have a direct impact on where LeBron ends up even if they don't play together," he told on SportsNation earlier this week.

"They will be linked in where their futures will be."

“I could construct you a way where [the Sixers] could trade for Kawhi Leonard and sign LeBron James.” pic.twitter.com/dQOXYaNoKG

— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) April 16, 2018

The prospects of LeBron and Leonard both moving to the same team remain remote, so signing the former could put a franchise out of the running for the latter and vice versa.

However, Windhorst suggested the Sixers could potentially secure both players, a move which would dramatically alter the NBA landscape.

"I could construct you a way where [the Sixers] could trade for Kawhi Leonard and sign LeBron James," he added.

Meanwhile, the Lakers have set their sights firmly on LeBron and Paul George but they could also be monitoring Leonard's situation as they can clear out salary space for two max-level contracts this summer.