A bombshell broke the NBA late Friday night with both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George joining the Los Angeles Clippers. In spurning the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors, Leonard will join George and form a rivalry for the ages in L.A., with LeBron James and Anthony Davis sharing the Staples Center court for the Lakers. The Clippers might be the favorite to win the 2020 title.
The Oklahoma City Thunder returned a record-setting coup of assets in the deal for George, last season’s third-place finisher in MVP voting. Per The New York Times’ Marc Stein, the Thunder will receive
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
- Danilo Gallinari
- Three unprotected first-round picks via the Clippers (2022, 2024, 2026)
- One unprotected first-round pick via the Heat (2021)
- One protected first-round pick via the Heat (2023, 1-14)
- Two pick swaps with the Clippers (2023, 2025).
Gilgeous-Alexander is a coveted asset who made the All-Rookie second team last season, while Gallinari was L.A.’s second-leading scorer behind Lou Williams.
OKC only parted with George because he requested for a trade, per Woj. Leonard coerced George to make the move and will sign a max four-year, $142 million deal.
Let’s unpack what this means for all parties involved — and everyone else.
Los Angeles Clippers
After emerging as a hard-nosed, competitive group of overachievers last year, the Clippers have quickly become the real deal. Leonard sought not to join or form a superteam, but to bring in a co-star. With George, the Clippers have the perfect opportunity to suit his needs. With player depth, cap space and a home both Leonard and George sought since last summer, the Clippers played their post-Lob City rebuild to perfection.
L.A. gave up a fortune to get their guys, but George and Leonard are two of the best in the game. And though they gave up Gilgeous-Alexander, the Clippers kept Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet, Lou Williams, and Montrezl Harrell while adding Maurice Harkless. That’s a championship core.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder lost a franchise piece and their chances at a title (even if it was slim) to enter a rebuild it never wanted to enter.
But at the very least, they’ve set a new industry standard for losing a superstar talent in-his-prime. Just last month, The Pelicans received Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, the No. 4 pick in the 2019 draft, a top-eight protected 2021 pick, a 2023 pick-swap, and an unprotected 2024 or 2025 pick for Anthony Davis.
And yet, the Clippers haul was greater. Gilgeous-Alexander is a terrific prospect, Gallinari is a solid player, the two Miami picks have the potential to be very high, and the Thunder now control the Clippers’ entire draft for the next seven years.
The hero of Toronto will still be welcomed when he returns, but now Leonard gets what he wants — to win in L.A.
He didn’t sell his soul to the Lakers, either. This is Kawhi’s team.
George’s OKC Thunder team fell short in its second iteration, and there was little reason to believe Year 3 would’ve been much different. Now George gets to play in the city he’s been linked to for years, alongside debatably the best player in the world. Plot twist: that’s the Clippers.
Parity in the NBA
For the first time in a long time, the NBA has no superteam. Had Kawhi signed with the Lakers, the league would be in a different place. For now, the Nuggets, Jazz, Lakers, Clippers, Bucks, Rockets, Warriors, 76ers, Nets, and more are in contention.
He’s going to the Lakers now for two years and $30 million, a payout only possible because Leonard chose the Clippers.
This wasn’t his fault.
Los Angeles Lakers
You hate to see this, huh. The Lakers lost out on dozens of potential suitors in a chase for a third star they couldn’t land. Now, they’ll have to fill out a roster with the paltry mix of free agents still remaining, and the Clippers have just become their biggest threat.
At least they have Anthony Davis.
Toronto Raptors, kind of
They’re a loser because they lost Leonard. But they achieved their ultimate goal in winning the title, and they can’t fault anyone along the way. Their process was complete. It just wasn’t made to last.
Two teams were always going to lose out because of Leonard’s decision, but Westbrook’s wasn’t supposed to join the mix. Now, Westbrook’s Thunder are in a forced rebuild, and Russ is left standing after TWO disgruntled superstars have departed the city on sour terms.
The reporters who pretended they knew a single thing about Leonard’s plan
[Narrator]: They did not.