Kawhi Leonard, the final piece in what has been a historic free agency for the NBA, has finally made his decision. The reigning Finals MVP will sign a four-year, $141 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Clippers were one of three teams in the running for Leonard along with the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors.
With Leonard on the Clippers, LeBron James and the Lakers will pursue other free agents and try to fill out their roster. The Raptors will be left to enjoy their first championship. After that, the team could choose to rebuild or try to make another playoff run with the current unit.
Leonard isn’t joining the Clippers alone though. Per Wojnarowski, the Clippers have traded for Paul George. George, who was an MVP candidate this season, had previously signed a four-year extension worth roughly $137 million with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Just two years into his time in OKC with Russell Westbrook, George demanded a trade to the Clippers.
The Thunder got a historic haul in return for George, but it was a necessary move for the Clippers. If not for George coming on board, it’s unlikely the team would have been able to land Leonard. Los Angeles sent Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the rights to swap first round picks in 2023 and 2025, unprotected first round picks in 2021, 2022, 2024, and 2026, and a top-14 protected first round pick in 2022. That’s a massive haul for the Thunder and it should set the team up nicely for an eventual rebuild.
The Leonard and George additions set up one of the potentially greatest rivalries in the league. The two clippers stars will now go head-to-head with Anthony Davis, James, and the Lakers for a battle of supremacy in LA.
The Western Conference is wide open now that the Golden State Warriors no longer have Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson is injured. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are still there, but they’ll have to face a growing wave of super teams. Both Los Angeles teams now have two of the top ten players in the league and the Utah Jazz have assembled a trio of borderline All-Stars. The Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers are also trending upward, lifted by their own superstars.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the first season in this newly reshaped NBA plays out.