July 06, 2019
This summer's biggest free agent is headed to Los Angeles, and not to play for the Lakers.
Kawhi Leonard, who last month led the Toronto Raptors to the first championship in franchise history, will sign a max deal (4 years, $140.6 million) with the L.A. Clippers, a source with knowledge of the signing confirmed to USA TODAY Sports.
Kawhi Leonard signing with Los Angeles Clippers; Paul George joining him via monster trade
The person requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly until the deal is official.
He won't be coming alone.
In a monster deal, the Clippers are also trading for Oklahoma City Thunder six-time All-Star Paul George, a source with knowledge of the deal confirmed.
The person requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly until the deal is official.
Going back to the Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – an All-Rookie selection who was the 11th pick in the 2018 draft – veteran forward Danilo Gallinari and at least four first-round picks.
Just like that, the NBA's power structure has shifted.
Leonard is arguably the best player on the planet right now. His postseason run was historic — from his series-clinching shot in Game 7 against Philadelphia to his 732 total playoff points that trailed only LeBron James and Michael Jordan in league history. In 24 games, he averaged 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.7 steals and shot 49% from the field. He earned his second Finals MVP award.
Simply put: He's a game-changer, and he immediately makes the Clippers a title contender.
He also brings star power, which the Clippers haven't had much of the past two seasons.
"He is the most like Jordan that we've seen," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of Leonard on an ESPN broadcast in May — comments that led to a $50,000 tampering fine. "Like, there’s a lot of great players. LeBron is phenomenal. KD is phenomenal. Not that (Leonard) is Jordan or anything like that, but he is the most like him.
"Big hands. Post game. Can finish. Great leaper. Great defender. In-between game. If you beat him to the spot, he bumps you off. And then you add his 3-point shooting."
George and Leonard give the Clippers a stellar one-two punch. Despite shoulder issues late in the season, George was an MVP finalist in 2018-19, averaging 28 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and a league-leading 2.2 steals per game. George signed a four-year, $137 million deal with the Thunder last summer.
Like Leonard, a two-time defensive player of the year, George is a Southern California native with a strong two-way game – as evidenced by his four All-Defensive team selections. The duo should provide the Clippers with one of the top lockdown wing tandems the league has seen in some time.
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