Kevin Durant has joined the Brooklyn Nets. Jimmy Butler is heading to the Miami Heat. Khris Middleton is staying with the Bucks. Al Horford is a Sixer. Tobias Harris is too. Plenty of other big free agents have signed.
Kawhi Leonard is the major piece on the board.
The Los Angeles Clippers made a song and dance over Leonard all season. He was, supposedly, their focus.
As it stands, though, the Clippers are in limbo.
Leonard, though, is the player they craved most of all. He, barring some out of the blue trade, is their only hope of becoming title contenders in 2019/20. Without Leonard, the plucky Clippers of 2018/19 will return, and may well snatch a playoff spot again, but they are not scaring anyone.
The Clippers picked up Mo Harkless and a first-rounder in the monster Butler trade. It was a shrewd move for a franchise in limbo, as they collect yet more assets. Doc Rivers and co. are in position for the next superstar that demands a trade (as they were for Anthony Davis), but that doesn’t help them in the short term. Right now, the Clippers are waiting, waiting for a decision that will define their franchise.
Give this Clippers team Leonard and they are immediately contenders. The Western Conference is oh-so wide open. Getting Leonard – and just as importantly stopping the Lakers acquiring him – would be a game changer for the Clippers, it is the sort of signing that alters a franchise.
Having created the cap space – which included trading Harris – and recruited heavily, where are the Clippers if they miss out?
Leonard is the Holy Grail of this offseason after Klay Thompson and Durant’s injuries. You can’t blame the Clippers for waiting it out, but with names quickly falling off the board, they risk being left in that quite-good-not-good-enough no-man’s-land.
We all know how uninspiring the 2020 free agent class is. Keeping cap space open for next summer doesn’t make much sense.
The gap between Leonard or no Leonard for the Clippers is vast. While that’s the case with every top-five player, the stakes for Rivers and Jerry West are high and only getting higher.