Leonard’s decision finally came on Saturday morning after a week of tracked planes and speculation. He asked the Clippers to get him a second star, and recruited Paul George (again per Wojnarowski), and Los Angeles went ahead and did just that, making a blockbuster trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Clippers will send Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander along with a bucketload of draft choices to the Thunder. Oklahoma City will receive the Clippers’ 2022, 2024 and 2026 first round picks as well as Miami’s unprotected 2021 and protected first rounder. The Thunder also have pick swap rights in 2023 and 2025.
Leonard, as expected, signed a four-year, $142 million max contract with the Clippers – as ever, per Wojnarowski.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors were both in the running late on for Leonard. The Raptors, the NBA’s reigning champions, got the final meeting with Leonard, but were unable to convince him to stay. The Lakers’ hopes of creating the biggest of big threes with Leonard, LeBron James and Anthony Davis ended on Saturday morning, and saw the start of the biggest basketball rivalry we have ever seen in Los Angeles. Many will make the Lakers and Clippers the two favourites for the 2019/20 NBA title.
George, as reported by Wojnarowski, asked for a trade a few days ago. While the world has been speculating about Leonard’s every move, the Los Angeles Clippers were working on one of the biggest trades in NBA history, giving up a record amount of draft selections to the Thunder.
While that might seem like an overpay, it isn’t. With Leonard demanding a second star to sign with the Clippers, and clearly wanting George, they were effectively trading for George and Leonard. In which case, no price is too high, as the Clippers have already jumped to the top of many bookmakers’ title odds.
Adding two Defensive Player of the Year candidates to the recently re-signed Patrick Beverley, the Clippers’ defence will be absolutely fearsome. Don’t be surprised to see them lead the league in steals and compete with Utah and Indiana for the best defensive rating.
Leonard’s signing and the George trade will have repercussions throughout the NBA. The ripples of this deal could be felt for years to come in Oklahoma City and Toronto. The Clippers went as big as a team can possible go, and they paired two of the NBA’s best in the process, making them instant title favourites.