It’s official. Kawhi Leonard is a Los Angeles Clipper. Late last night, Kawhi Leonard announced his decision to join the Clippers. Steve Ballmer and Jerry West weren’t done yet. They wasted no time in making a trade for Oklahoma City’s Paul George.
The Clippers capped off NBA free agency with a bang. In acquiring Paul George, Los Angeles sent the Thunder four unprotected first round picks, one protected first round pick, and two pick swaps paired with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari.
The Clippers will add the reigning Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard and a regular season MVP finalist in Paul George to an already fully loaded roster. The two superstars will join what is widely regarded as the best bench in basketball even without the rising star in Shai Gilgeous Alexander.
They won’t do it without a fight. The Los Angeles Lakers were in the running to add Leonard to a star-studded lineup featuring Lebron James, Anthony Davis and the newly signed Boogie Cousins. Not 24 hours after Kawhi’s decision, the Lakers attacked the free agent market. Along with Demarcus Cousins signing a one year deal for $3.5 million, the Lakers landed Danny Green on a two year deal worth $30 million and Rajon Rondo on a two year deal worth the veteran minimum.
The Los Angeles Clippers have long been the ‘little brother’ to the Los Angeles Lakers. When two teams play in the same city and one boasts 16 championships while the other has never even made an appearance in the Western Conference Finals, it’s only natural that the latter ends up the butt of every joke. Things have changed and while the Lakers’ history speaks for itself, the franchise’s dysfunction the past six years is undeniable. Whereas the Clippers have managed to recover from the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin- Deandre Jordan era and rebuild in immaculate fashion. Front office advantage: Clippers.
While Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are no laughing matter, Anthony Davis and LeBron James are undeniable. Two of the top five players on the planet dawn the purple and gold, no matter how you slice it. Given the fact that Kawhi Leonard waited out suitors for the bulk of free agency, the Lakers have put together a solid roster. Pound for pound the Lakers are putting out a better starting five than the Clippers. Star power advantage: Lakers.
As far as their respective benches, the Clippers hold the upper hand. The Lakers entered free agency with only four players under contract. They hedged their bets on Kawhi Leonard and it fell through. While it’s fair to say Pelinka and the front office recovered nicely, not getting Kawhi left them with slim pickings on the free agency market. Bench advantage: Clippers.
The West has been diluted to Los Angeles and everybody else. On any given night, Staples Center will boast at least two superstars. For 81 games a year, the Staples Center will be home to the best basketball this world has to offer. Only one thing is clear: going to Staples Center will be more expensive than it has ever been and it was already ridiculously expensive. Los Angeles is the center of the basketball world once again.