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Lowe: Brandon Ingram Likely The Linchpin Of Any Kawhi Leonard Lakers Trade Talks

The Lakers introduce Brandon Ingram at a press conference.

Earlier this week, we got a peek at the type of haul that the San Antonio Spurs want in a Kawhi Leonard Lakers trade. According to NBA salary cap guru Larry Coon, the price tag is the whopping group of Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, two first round picks, and two pick swaps.

It is hard to believe that the Lakers would give all that up for one player, especially with the risks that come with Kawhi. He is an unrestricted free agent after next season, and is coming off of an injury that he considered bad enough to keep him out for all but a handful of games.

As you'd expect, the Lakers would reportedly balk at such a deal. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported that the team is not willing to "gut the roster" for a player who it can try and land in free agency in a year.

That doesn't mean a deal is totally dead though.

Obviously, landing Leonard this year makes it more likely that he signs long term. As we get closer to the season, the Spurs are likely to lower their price as well.

Based on a new column by ESPN's Zach Lowe, Brandon Ingram may be the linchpin in any Kawhi Leonard Lakers trade.

Ingram has the makings of a budding star, after averaging 16.1 points in his second NBA season last year. He will also be just 21 years old this upcoming season.

Leonard moving to L.A. may come down to whether the Lakers are willing to part with Ingram or not.

The Lakers should be hellbent on keeping Ingram -- and willing to trade almost all that other stuff, including Ball, for the security of avoiding another Paul George scenario by landing Leonard now. The Spurs should be, and are, insisting on Ingram's inclusion.

But LeBron is a Laker, and he is not pressuring L.A. to acquire a second star now, per sources familiar with his thinking. His decision to come alone for three guaranteed seasons speaks for itself. He knows Ingram has at least borderline All-Star potential, and that the 2019 free-agency class is loaded beyond Leonard. He has faith in the combined powers of his supernova talent and the Lakers brand.

As Lowe writes, the length of LeBron's deal works in the Lakers favor. With George off the market for the foreseeable future though, next off-season there will be real pressure to start putting together the type of roster that can compete for an NBA title. As good as Ingram may become, the odds that he is Kawhi Leonard are long, but the Lakers' reluctance to deal him is understandable.

[ESPN]