Report: Leonard Chooses Clippers
Photo Credit: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
In a stunningly decisive move, current NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard chooses the Los Angeles Clippers over returning to Toronto or teaming up with Lebron James and Anthony Davis across the Staples Center.
On top of that, the Clippers have also acquired Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder for a historic haul of picks, including promising young point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and reliable contributor forward Danilo Gallinari. Literally overnight, the team that took the Golden State Warriors to six games with no all-stars adds two, and in dramatic fashion.
Leonard’s acclaim knows no bounds, and deservedly so. His desirability as a player convinced Paul George to leave a situation with no prior indication, and forced the Clippers to give up their 2022, 2024 and 2026 first-round picks, the Heat’s 2021 pick, lottery-protected 2023 pick, and the right to swap picks with the Clippers in 2023 and 2025.
The trade partially came out of fear of a Lakers dynasty, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who may now be flanked by a Clippers dynasty.
The Clippers have maneuvered this situation with the aplomb from its infantile stages, proving themselves one of the best front offices in basketball. In February, the team traded expiring contract Tobias Harris to a championship-hopeful Philadelphia for an overpay of surprise rookie shooter Landry Shamet, three first round picks, and two 2023 second rounders.
The Miami pick included in the trade came from this deal, and the team still retains the other two first rounders, Shamet, and the second rounders. Maximizing their assets for Harris, it was clear the Clippers were preparing for a big off-season, however emerging as one of the deepest benches and most formidable two-way duo in the league is success beyond desire.
Leveraging Toronto and LA in trade talks for George, OKC made out with a great hand, and the Clippers only slightly overpaid for an MVP contender.
Leonard and George, 28 and 29 respectively, will stake their claim in the battle for LA at the height of their primes with just as much firepower as the Lakers, if not more.
Each guy can close-out, contain, and contest with the best of them, putting the wings and coaching staffs to the test. George led the league with 2.2 steals per game last season, with Leonard averaging 1.8.
The duo on offensive presents an even greater issue as either of them can score from anywhere on the floor. Catching Leonard on the drive is a harrowing situation for anyone, but knowing that George could be standing in the corner waiting for him to pop it out makes the two a nauseating problem for defenses around the league.
Their supporting cast ranks among the best. Lou Williams won six-man of the year for the second in a row, scoring 20 points a game off the bench last season with a career-high 5.4 assists. Shamet, as mentioned earlier, is likely to be one of the league’s finest shooters, and on a rookie deal too. Patrick Beverly’s defensive enthusiasm made him a fan favorite and a viable option on players far past his level.
While the Raptors may find themselves struggling to hold the four seed with Pascal Siakam as their first option, the Leonard trade was a success. He brought paid his dues and brought Torontot their first NBA Title, he won his second Finals MVP, and now he’s off to test his luck in a jam packed West.
Though giving up a franchise player in Demar Derozan did not beget a replacement, it did bring the Larry O’Brian trophy in quick order; an ultimate and swift payoff.
He’s off to try his quadruple-bounce buzzer beater hitting luck in a more competitive conference, and with Paul George by his side, he has a good shot.