That is the claim of NBA analyst Amin Elhassan.
The Lakers wanted to bring in the two-time Defensive Player of the Year Leonard alongside LeBron James to boost their chances of being in championship contention.
But the San Antonio Spurs’ demands, and Leonard’s desire to be in Los Angeles for 2019-20, tempted Magic Johnson and the Lakers’ front office to take the risk of waiting to try and sign him via free agency in 12 months’ time.
Disgruntled Spurs forward Leonard was traded for All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan, center Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick with Danny Green also headed to Canada.
But ESPN reporter Chris Haynes revealed that Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto, where he is widely expected to play just one year before returning to his long-favoured destination of Southern California.
And Elhassan believes the fact the Spurs have sent Leonard to the Raptors is a huge advantage in the Lakers’ long-term strategy to acquire the 27-year-old.
He told ESPN show The Jump: “The best news the Lakers got today was Chris Haynes’ tweet that Kawhi Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto.
“Because if you’re the Lakers, your gamble is working. They can have him and not give up anything, as long as he is less than enthused about wherever he is.
“That’s one more day by Magic and Rob Pelinka until July 1st 2019 when they’re like, ‘Come on home!’”
Some have questioned the Lakers’ tactics given that it means James’ hopes of adding another ring to his collection this season is all but dependent on him himself, having near single-handedly carried the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Finals last year.
But Elhassan can understand the Lakers’ master plan to topple the Golden State Warriors – having won the Western Conference in all of the last four years and taken championships in three of those, all against James’ Cavs.
He continued: “You might take a step back in terms of wasting this year of his prime but if you can sit there and say, ‘I’ve got LeBron James; he’s not quite what he was a year ago, fair, but I’ve got Kawhi in his prime.
‘I’ve got Brandon Ingram coming up in his prime and the Kuzmas and the Balls and the Harts. LeBron might start dipping but we will rise and it won’t matter as much if we do something now reactionary’.
“That [trading Leonard now] would still not be enough to beat the Warriors. Right now there is not a single trade the Lakers can do that could see them beat the Warriors.”