Nick Wright reveals why the Lakers should target Damian Lillard if they can’t land Kawhi

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Nick Wright explains to Cris Carter and Jenna Wolfe why the Los Angeles Lakers should consider acquiring Portland's Damian Lillard if they can't sign Kawhi Leonard.

- Which star should the Lakers target if they can't get Kawhi Leonard?

- Definitely not the last Kevin Love. I've seen enough of LeBron and Kevin Love. And I don't want to see that anymore. That's a bad sequel, like, no. This is puzzling because I'm still stuck on Kawhi. Kawhi's a better player than the rest of the people. You know? So why should I compromise if I want to get Kawhi? All these other players I got to trade for also.

Now, probably don't have to trade as much, of course. But I know Kawhi's a better defender. I know Kawhi fits maybe better with these-- with LeBron than these other players. Now, Damian Lillard, now, he's intriguing. That's the one on the list that kind of jumps out at me.

NICK WRIGHT: Because we've seen that before. That's Kyrie. It's LeBron and Kyrie. I mean, at least to me. Like you know that fits.

CRIS CARTER: Yes

- Like that-- the-- So on the Kawhi note, C, tell me if you buy this. Because I feel like what's going on right now is there are the Lakers and the Spurs, separately, are trying to play a bit of a game of chicken and trying to use leverage via media reports. I think, right now, all of a sudden, we are hearing more and we heard that hey, the Sixers could make the best offer. We are hearing the Clippers brought up a lot more.

Now, I understand C's reporting accurately that Kawhi is cool with either team in Los Angeles. But the Clippers, flatly-- they don't have the ability to trade a draft pick, a first round pick, for four years because of the step in rule and a trade they've already made. And they have no attractive young players unless you love one of the two guys they drafted this year.

But we're hearing more buzz around the Clippers. Maybe around the Sixers. Now, all of a sudden, we're hearing buzz hey, the Lakers might just-- what about Damian Lillard? So I think both-- I think the Lakers are still set on Kawhi. I think Kawhi is still-- we know, he's set on Los Angeles. I think it's probably going to be the Lakers. But I think there is maybe some misinformation going out there about-- to try to play the sides against each other.

But to answer the question, it is absolutely unequivocally Damian Lillard. Like even with Kawhi, I'd want Damian Lillard if I could get him. And, keep in mind, Portland thought they were in the game for Boogie Cousins. Portland-- it was C.J. McCollum, our friend, who tweeted out. He was like man, I took a nap. I wake up. Boogie, what are you doing here? Let's-- call me.

Like-- so Portland thought they were gonna try to ratchet it up. Boogie's now off the table. Now, Portland's got to take a hard look in the mirror and say, are we better taking a step backwards? Are we better building around C.J. than 27-year-old Dame. So I do think Dame's available.

I also think Brad Beal could be available. That's another really good fit. I don't love the John Wall fit as much because Wall really needs the basketball in his hands, even though he's an excellent player. But Lillard or Beal, to me, are interesting fits alongside LeBron James. Great shooters. Beal's a good two-way player. Lillard's a better offensive player, not as good of a defensive player.

- How long does all this take to shape out? I mean, what are we talking here? Could this go on for weeks? Could this go on till the season starts?

NICK WRIGHT: I mean, Kyrie--

CRIS CARTER: Till the trade deadline. That's what-- that is the-- that is the official window. That's when you can stop talking about it because-- all the-- what if Washington gets off to a bad start? What if Toronto-- well, what if the new coach and everything is not necessarily working out? What about your man, Dan Gilbert? He's a genius. LeBron's not there. They piling up them losses. Like-- these things-- no, we're gonna continue to talk about it. It's gonna be in the news.

- I would-- I would put a slightly shorter timeline on at least some of this because they're not gonna be able to do one of these guys and Kawhi. And the deadline for Kawhi, I don't believe to be the trade deadline. The deadline for Kawhi is before the start of his season.

But remember, Kyrie got traded in August. The season-- even though they moved up the start of the season, the season won't begin until the middle of October. So I would say around training camp-ish, you know, week three of the NFL season, like mid-September. If something hasn't happened by then, then we are running out of days for that to happen.

- We have to assume that LeBron assumed that when he started the season this year, it's gonna be alongside another star, whether it was Paul George or whether it was Kawhi. No one thought LeBron would be the first one to land in LA. We always thought-- the assumption was that it was gonna be Paul George and that was gonna start the domino effect. But do you think he's a little disappointed, LeBron James, that the Lakers are-- at least we don't know about it. It's sort of up in the air on who the next big star is that they're gonna get.

- No. I think Nick and I, through our conversations, we knew that LeBron was gonna make his decision quick. So-- also in the basketball world, I know through talking to Kawhi's people, and I know through talking to Nick, who he's made contact with people, that Paul George staying in OKC was not a surprise. So LeBron, I would say, knew this, and he wanted to commit first to allow them the ability. Because it seems like, in the last two to three weeks, everything in Los Angeles with Paul George has been very, very cold. There hadn't been a whole bunch of messaging going on there.

- And LeBron made his decision after Paul George made his. Paul George, remember did it at 12:01. They had that party with Russ. Nas was there. So like--

CRIS CARTER: Yeah, but the inside, in the NBA--

NICK WRIGHT: It was already moving towards that.

- Yeah, they knew that he was gonna go back to OKC.

- There was a report we discussed last week that LeBron was hesitant to be the first guy there. Again-- I-- so that goes back to my misinformation thing. I happen to believe that was a report that might have been generated in San Antonio. That might have been trying to-- to get the Lakers to feel like man, you know, you think you're getting LeBron, he hasn't signed yet. You better-- you better give the best possible offer for Kawhi right now.

LeBron went there knowing Paul George was off the table. Obviously, not super excited about Boogie Cousins, as we discussed earlier. And knowing that the Kawhi thing-- because Kawhi's not a free agent-- could take some time. I do not think LeBron will be the only star on the Lakers come the beginning of the season. I do think they will make a significant move this offseason. They have the ability to do that. I still believe it will be Kawhi. Now, I know we're gonna get into it later in the show, the Lakers are asking for everything except for Staples Center for Kawhi.

- Yeah, I just don't know when the last time Magic Johnson was visiting some stranger at their house at midnight. You know Magic there for a reason.

- Yeah.

- And that was to get LeBron to agree.

- Absolutely.