On Wednesday morning, Matt Harris and I released our mega-piece on free agency, which had already been hectic enough. At the time of publishing, Kawhi Leonard remained unsigned. He was down to three suitors: the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Toronto Raptors, the reigning league champions. In our "Predictions" section of the article we had Kawhi teaming up with LeBron and Anthony Davis on the Lakers to form a new dynasty and take over the league. Well, we were wrong. I went to bed around midnight last night and when my dog's barking woke me up around 6AM, I checked my phone to see that Kawhi agreed to a four-year deal to join the Clippers. Not only that, but the Clippers also acquired Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and five first-round draft picks, the most ever included in a trade. As reported by Woj, the Clippers feared a potential Lakers dynasty if they weren't able to acquire a second superstar to slot alongside Kawhi so they went out and got the guy Kawhi wanted most, Paul George. We'd like to issue a formal apology to the Clippers organization for doubting their abilities to go out and get Kawhi and other big name players. We were so, so wrong and now they're the Finals favorite. We will never question Jerry West, Lawrence Frank, or Doc Rivers ever again. Funny how things can change in a 48-hour period. With that being said, here are our revisionist thoughts on the whole situation.
Jack: Well, damn. I was all about Kawhi joining the Lakers but I think this is much better for the league. It's been so long since the league has been this balanced; every game is going to be a bloodbath. With the exception of a few teams like the Hornets and Cavs, everyone seems to have at least a formidable one-two punch, whether they be young and on the rise or established veteran stars. The Clippers are now favorites to win it all; makes sense. Their defensive presence is going to by terrifying to most, if not all, teams now that they have (probably) the best two-way players in the league. Kawhi is coming off a season in which he averaged 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.8 assists on 49.6/37.1/85.4 shooting splits. Keep in mind that was only in 60 games, some of which he wasn't fully healthy for. Not only that, but he led the Raptors to their first franchise championship victory in his lone season in the Six. He's a player that clearly alters franchises for the best and he could easily be on his way to his third Finals and Finals MVP wins this upcoming season. Kawhi just had the most intensely silent free agency of any player I've ever seen and it culminated into quite possibly the best team in the league.
Did anyone see this Paul George trade coming? This is the most wild aspect about this whole situation to me. PG is coming off a season in which he was a contender for both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year (he finished third in voting for both). He put up 28 points, 8.2 boards, 4.1 assists, and 2.2 steals a night, once again proving that he's a certified two-way star. Him and Kawhi are going to be an absolute nightmare on both ends of the floor and once you add in Patrick Beverley's intensity and Montrezl Harrell's 7'4" wingspan down low, it's going to be tough to score on this team. Lou Williams and Landry Shamet provide additional scoring, further showcasing the Clippers' ability to attack from anywhere.
The Clippers won 48 games last season and took the Warriors to six games in the first-round. Add two stars into the mix, especially guys who can dominate on both ends, and this becomes the scariest team to face. This is going to be a hell of a season, and I couldn't be more excited that the home of basketball is in Los Angeles. Until it comes back to Chicago, which is happening soon.
Matt: Yeah, I'm shocked, but that's why we shouldn't believe the media about that type of stuff. One minute it looked like Kawhi was going to run it back with the Toronto Raptors, the next we thought that he was going to the Los Angeles Lakers and teaming up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis to form the most unstoppable trio in NBA history. But in reality, Kawhi is now a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, along with Paul George. I did a double take while I was on Twitter at around 1:55 AM this morning. I was a little out of it after a quick grass sesh with the boys, and I thought I was getting trolled by a fake Woj account. Boy was I wrong. The Clippers sent over their draft capitol for the next five plus years, along with Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to Oklahoma City for Paul George, who's coming off the best year of his career which saw him make the All-NBA First Team, as well as finish third in MVP voting. The Clippers already had a playoff-bound roster without Kawhi and PG, but with them in the fold now, they have to be the favorites to win it all. There will be an adjustment period for the two superstars, but their unselfishness shouldn't make it too difficult. Look out NBA, here comes the Clip show.
I'd like to take a moment and talk about poor Russell Westbrook. I mean god damn nobody wants to be in OKC anymore. First KD left, now PG's gone after re-signing last offseason to finish some unfinished business. The two first round exits clearly bothered George, who will most definitely make it past the first round, and likely the NBA Finals. Back to Russ though, is this the end of his tenure in OKC? He's done so much for the city and organization, but nothing really has come out of it except some pretty good individual stats. Thunder GM Sam Presti did meet with Westbrook and his agent today and they seem to be interested in pursuing a trade. If a trade does happen, look for the Miami Heat to be the early frontrunner. Pat Riley knows the Heat roster currently constructed isn't good enough to win the East. He also knows he needs to pair newly acquired Jimmy Butler with a co-star. The question is do the Heat have enough to give up to get Westbrook? It remains to be seen, but I think we can assume that Russ will be on the move, making this insane offseason even better.