Kawhi Leonard is heading to the Los Angeles Clippers and he won’t be going alone.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported early Saturday morning that the Oklahoma City Thunder are trading All-Star forward Paul George to the Clippers for “a record-setting collection of draft choices.”
Wojnarowski said that Oklahoma City will also get second-year point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari to go with the massive collection of picks. Woj reported that the Thunder’s haul includes the Clippers unprotected 2022, 2024 and 2026 picks, their unprotected 2021 and protected 2023 first-round picks via Miami and the rights to swap picks with the Clippers in 2023 and 2025.
The team will need those picks to build around Russell Westbrook, who now has to watch another superstar teammate leave his side. Kevin Durant bolted from OKC for the Golden State Warriors in 2016.
The trade is set to send shockwaves around the NBA. Leonard had been weighing his options between the Clippers, Lakers and Raptors.
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Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports first reported that Leonard was heading to the Clippers and back to California. Leonard played his college ball at San Diego State and is from Southern California. He was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in the with the 15th overall pick in the 2011 draft.
Leonard reportedly agreed to a max deal with the Clippers for four years and $142 million.
Leonard reportedly pushed George to find a way to the Clippers and he quickly requested the Thunder to trade him, according to Woj.
“In the end, Kawhi Leonard didn’t want to construct a Super Team with the Lakers,” Wojnarowski said. “He wanted a co-star across the Staples corridor with the Clippers, and made it clear to Steve Ballmer and Lawrence Frank: Get PG, and I’m coming.”
Shams Charania reported that discontent had been brewing between George, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder in recent weeks, something other teams were aware of, which helped make the trade a reality.
George resigned with the Thunder last season after much speculation that he would head to play with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers — long his rumored destination. He instead inked a four-year, $137 million max deal with the Thunder.
The Clippers did not have another superstar on the roster, but bringing aboard George — who finished third in MVP voting last season — was enough to convince Kawhi to come to LA. Last season, George averaged 28 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
Leonard led the Raptors to their first NBA title last season, averaging 26.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game following a trade from the San Antonio Spurs. The Raptors had to give up franchise cornerstone and fan favorite DeMar DeRozan in that deal, but it more than paid off. Leonard was named the NBA Finals MVP, averaging 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals during an incredible playoff run.
Earlier this offseason, the Clippers resigned Patrick Beverley on a three-year deal worth $40 million.
“It was the right decision. Of course, the human part of you wants to take as much money as you see, but all money isn’t good money,” Beverley told the Los Angeles Times. “I did what was best for me and my family and I did what was best to stay on a winning team, and I feel like I made the right decision.”
That statement from Beverley is nearly prophetic looking back now.
Beverley combined with Leonard and George will give the Clippers one of the stingiest defensive units in the league. Also on the roster is defending Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and up-and-coming guard Landry Shamet.