Leonard pitched James on his incredible defensive ability and how it would alleviate the pressure on James, the source said.
On June 15, Yahoo Sports reported that Leonard, 26, wanted to be traded from the Spurs organization, and trade talks with San Antonio regarding Leonard reportedly picked up steam Thursday, with the Lakers expressing interest in a deal.
James has until Friday to opt out of his contract with the Cavs but is expected to become the most coveted player on the market when free agency opens Sunday at midnight ET.
Leonard — a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and two-time First-Team All-NBA selection — possesses the shooting prowess to play on or off the ball, and would seem to be an ideal fit with James. During the 2016-17 season, Leonard had a nearly identical catch-and-shoot percentage as Kevin Durant, per NBA.com stats, while connecting on 38 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Leonard has played seven seasons with the Spurs and was the NBA Finals MVP in 2014.
The Spurs are in no rush to make a deal, and don’t necessarily have to, preferring to try to repair their relationship with Leonard and potentially reward him with a super-max contract. But this certainly adds another layer of intrigue to an already complicated situation involving one of the league’s premier players.
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• Paul George to opt out of his contract and become a free agent
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Jordan Schultz is an NFL, NBA and NCAAB insider/analyst for Yahoo Sports.