In a crazy series of events, after the Clippers signed Kawhi Leonard in free agency, Los Angeles traded for Paul George. Overnight, the Clippers added two players to their roster who received MVP votes last season.
How did this possibly happen? If you saw this coming, props to you. You should buy lotto tickets because you’ve got it. After Paul George resigned with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2018 for 4 years and $137 million, it seemed like George was a Thunder for the foreseeable future. After the Thunder went 49-33 last season with George and Russell Westbrook, they did not look like a team that was on the verge of tearing everything apart.
However, Kawhi Leonard had other plans. Free agent Kawhi wanted to sign with the Clippers, and he wanted Paul George to join him.
According to a tweet from ESPN’s Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski, “After Leonard pushed George to find a way to get to the Clippers, Paul George approached the team and requested a trade, league sources tell ESPN. OKC was left with no choice and made the best out of a difficult situation, per sources.”
Let me get this straight. A year after signing a 4 year deal, George is persuaded by Kawhi to request a trade to the Clippers, who then gets his request met by the Thunder who trade him to the Clippers. I didn’t know NBA players could do that. Not only did the Thunder comply to trade George, they traded him to the exact team he asked to be traded to. “Is there anything else you would like?” Thunder GM Sam Presti asked George on his way out. For whatever reason, George had all the leverage in this situation, and the Thunder respected his exact wishes. For a player with three years of control left, were the Thunder really left with ~no choice~ but to trade George?
Fortunately for the Thunder, the return they received from the Clippers is wonderful. The Thunder acquired Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (the 11th overall pick from the 2018 draft), Danilo Gallinari, and the Clippers’ first round draft picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026, along with two first-round choices from Miami (2021 and 2023), and OKC obtained the right to swap first-round picks in 2023 and 2025. Five first round draft picks should make up for the loss of George (maybe?). Ok fine, it totally doesn’t. But, considering how a few days after losing George, the Thunder traded Russell Westbrook for two more first round draft picks, it makes the George deal look better. The Thunder decided to go into full rebuilding mode after George wanted out, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They’ve added seven(!!!) first round picks from trading George and Westbrook, so they are off to an amazing start to their rebuild.
Kawhi’s deal with the Clippers is 3 year contract worth $103 million, with a player option for 2021. Kawhi can opt out after 2 seasons, if he wanted. The Clippers will have the next two seasons to try to make it work with Kawhi and George, or else Kawhi can opt out and George’s contract is up a year after that.
The Clippers went 48-34 to grab the 8th seed in the Western Conference last season, and have gotten significantly better this offseason adding Kawhi and Paul George. Five teams in the West won 50+ games last year, so the Clippers will be competing with a lot of strong teams to make the playoffs. With the Warriors, Nuggets, and Rockets looking like legit contenders, and the Lakers duo of LeBron and Anthony Davis being potentially dangerous, it won’t be a cakewalk for Kawhi and George. However, they stuck around last season with a much less talented roster, so it is looking like the 2019-2020 season could be a banner year for the Los Angeles Clippers, who should be able to place higher than just the 8th seed, now that they are led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.