After we saw the huge flurry of moves on the opening day of free agency, the whole NBA world was sitting on pins and needles to see where Kawhi Leonard was going to sign. The Kawhi Watch had turned into its own crazy thing on Twitter with so many reports conflicting each other and nobody really knowing when or where he would sign. The only things we really knew for sure is that he would sign with someone before the new season started and that who he signed with was likely going to be between both of the Los Angeles teams and the Toronto Raptors.
Well late Friday night or early Saturday morning depending where on the continent of North America you were, the news broke, courtesy of Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, that Kawhi Leonard was headed to the Los Angeles Clippers, and then he had a second piece of breaking news that is going to change the NBA landscape even more and that was them trading four unprotected first-round picks, a protected first-round pick, two pick swaps and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari to the Thunder in exchange for Paul George.
Sources: Oklahoma City is getting a massive package of future picks, including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Galllinari, to deliver Kawhi Leonard who he wanted to partner with: Paul George. https://t.co/4bGpMNat8K— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 6, 2019
These two moves sent absolute shockwaves through the NBA world and it’s not surprising given the level of players that Leonard and George are and with the Clippers coming off of a surprising season that saw them make it to the postseason, even after trading Tobias Harris, and win two games against the Warriors in the first-round before bowing out.
Let’s start with Kawhi Leonard. He is now a two-time NBA champion and a two-time NBA Finals MVP after he led the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title in his only season in Toronto following his trade from the Spurs last offseason.
There’s a reason the Kawhi watch was such a big deal and that’s because Leonard is the level of star that can elevate a team to a championship level by himself and that’s why it’s huge for the Clippers to be able to go out and sign Kawhi to a four-year max deal. It’s also huge for the Clippers because for most of their history they have been a distant second in Los Angeles, outside of the Lob City Era and they had lost that when they traded Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and the Lakers became the clear number one again after they signed LeBron James last offseason and then the Lakers extended that gap even more when they traded for Anthony Davis last month, so for them to be able to make this happen is huge in the battle for Los Angeles.
Kawhi Leonard is as elite as they come on both ends of the floor and not much else needs to be said about him and what this means for the Clippers. He is an elite superstar in the prime of his career and last season he was able to lead the Raptors to a title despite not having a player on the team that was close to his level, so for him to now have Paul George alongside him is huge.
Not let’s move onto George. It’s surprising to see that he wanted out of Oklahoma City given the fact that he signed a four-year max deal to stay in Oklahoma City after having been there for a full season, but with the way things flamed out last season in the first-round of the playoffs it shouldn’t be all that surprising because the Thunder are not in a spot where they can really compete for a championship and they didn’t have the cap space to make anything happen so they were kind of just stuck where they were.
Paul George was able to play with another star when he forced his way out of Indiana and got traded to Oklahoma City, but now he will be able to play with the best teammate that he has ever played with. So taking into account Oklahoma City being stuck and appearing to have a ceiling and then the fact that Kawhi Leonard was recruiting him to play in Los Angeles, this move isn’t surprising.
Paul George is also a Southern California guy and there were rumors the whole time he wanted out of Indiana that he was going to end up in Los Angeles, and even though it didn’t happen last offseason, he still ends up getting to play at home after all.
George is a six-time All-Star and he has been an All-Star each of the last four seasons, so for the Clippers it was a no-brainer to go out and get him, despite the draft capital they gave up.
For the Thunder, this was a decent haul to get for Paul George. Of course they were never going to get equal value and I always say that when you trade a player of that caliber you will never get equal value, but the Thunder are looking at jumping into a full rebuild as reports have surfaced of them possibly trading Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams at some point this offseason.
I really like Shai-Gilgeous Alexander so getting him is a good start to a possible rebuild in my opinion. I don’t care too much about the draft capital they got, even though it is pretty unprecedented to get four unprotected first-round picks. The reason I don’t care about that too much though is because the Clippers should be really good and those first-round picks should be later in the first-round.
Unloading Danilo Gallinari was something the Clippers had to do to make these moves happen so he’s just a casualty of the Clippers being able to add two game-changing stars.
The Western Conference is going to be so deep next season and there are more teams that could have a case for winning it than I ever remember. With the Clippers having Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams still on the team and breakout big man Montrezl Harrell to go with the young talent that is Landry Shamet and the veteran pickup of Maurice Harkless earlier this offseason and them re-signing restricted free agency big man Ivica Zubac to a four-year deal that will pay him $7 million per year, there’s a lot of reason why the Clippers are now title favorites.
Top Photo: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports