The NBA is simply glorious. When the East Coast went to bed, Kawhi Leonard’s free agent decision loomed over the city of Toronto, nay the entirety of Canada. Leonard’s now former teammate Danny Green was waiting with bated breath to see where his fellow NBA champion would land. The Bucks and Sixers were likely the most interested, aside from the Toronto Raptors. The oddsmakers were up in the air on which teams would fill out the top three in the Eastern Conference. Then it happened. A signing and a trade that dramatically altered the NBA landscape.
Kawhi signs with the Clippers
In a surprise to few, Kawhi chose to go to his long-rumored destination in Los Angeles.
Free agent forward Kawhi Leonard has informed runners-up teams of his plans: He's signing with the Clippers, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 6, 2019
Instead of finishing an unprecedented trio of MVP contenders with LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Lakers, Leonard opted to team up with former Sixer Landry Shamet. Okay, I got the Sixers Twitter fanboy line of the day out of the way. Leonard isn’t stupid. He knew that before he could commit himself to a max deal with the Clippers, he’d need another star to shift the competitive balance of the Western Conference. Boy did he get one.
Along Came Paul-G
It was a year ago when I openly begged the Sixers to make a move for Paul George. Despite the owner of this site claiming PG13 is one of the most overrated players of this generation, George was widely considered to be a Top-2 or Top-3 MVP candidate for two-thirds of the season, until a shoulder injury rendered him nearly unable to shoot (and unlike a former #1 overall pick, this was a real injury… I digress). After George opted to sign an extension with the small market, Russell-Westbrook-led Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed unlikely he’d be going anywhere. In fact, most analysts expected the Thunder to deal one of Steven Adams or Westbrook if for no reason other than to clear salary and get under the luxury tax threshold.
No one expected PG13 to get dealt. That was until the reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard stepped in and out GM’d LeBron James.
After Leonard pushed George to find a way to get to the Clippers, Paul George approached the team and requested a trade, league sources tell ESPN. OKC was left with no choice and made the best out of a difficult situation, per sources.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 6, 2019
Winners and losers and what this all means for the Sixers after the jump:
The Clippers went from being the forgotten child of the West Coast to the preeminent team in Los Angeles. They’re going to be a must-watch squad with Leonard, George, and Patrick Beverley hounding teams on the wings. More importantly, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has full reign to drink the tears of every Lakers executive who mocked him.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The return is insane. Not only did OKC get back a player the Clippers didn’t want to part with in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but Danilo Gallinari, two pick swaps (2023 & 2025), and FIVE first-round picks:
- 2021 via Miami
- 2022 via LAC
- 2023 via Miami
- 2024 via LAC
- 2026 via LAC
That’s a remarkable haul. It’s better than what the Lakers got for Anthony Davis. It’s 100x better than what San Antonio got for Kawhi. It might be one of the most loaded packages ever sent out in North American sports history. Yes, I get that some of those firsts will be late in the round if all goes according to plan, but still.
The Philadelphia 76ers
Kawhi’s departure leaves a wide-open door to the Finals available to the Sixers should they choose to walk through it. Milwaukee has arguably gotten weaker through the departures of Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic. Toronto is a shell of their championship squad. Boston replaced Kyrie with a lesser Kyrie in Kemba Walker. Indiana added the aforementioned Brogdon, but let’s not kid ourselves. Brooklyn upgraded by swapping out D’Angelo Russell for Irving, but Kevin Durant will miss the upcoming season as he rehabs from a torn Achilles. Orlando is lower playoff seed paying close to the luxury tax. Does anyone really believe Detroit is a threat? Atlanta will be a real nuisance in the next two or three years. Charlotte is dead in the water without Kemba to keep them relevant. Maybe Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat could… nah.
There will be growing pains with this team, but exceeding 50 wins shouldn’t take much, especially with Al Horford poised to provide Joel Embiid some much-needed relief at the center position.
Kawhi Update: Raptors had strong meeting yesterday. Drake heavily involved. Talked of having Kawhi involved w/his OVO record label. Kawhi in deep soul searching. Wants Lakers but wants to make sure Big 3 will fit/work. Clippers out. It’s btwn Lakers & Raptors. Very close.
— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 4, 2019
This dude has had nearly all of his professional credibility shredded with his ‘throw it against a wall and see if it sticks’ methodology. It’s been a wicked-fast fall from his ESPN days.
LeBron James once again failed to get a superstar free agent to sign on with his team. The Lakers’ dysfunction proved to be an obstacle. Anthony Davis must feel like a complete boob for waiving his $4.095 million trade kicker in an effort to clear max cap space for a guy of Leonard’s ilk. Instead, he saw his new team re-sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a two-year, $16 million deal and JaVale McGee to a two-year, $8.2 million deal. The only good thing the team did is sign Danny Green to a two-year deal, though $15 million annually seems a bit high. All of these two year deals seems to signal another thing: the Lakers intend on selling 2021 to their fans. It’ll be fun to watch Lakers fans and Knicks fans wallowing in sorrow after failing to woo Giannis.
Westbrook is now left with a small market team that has lost any chance to contend. Steven Adams is going to eat up nearly $25 million against the cap next season and Westbrook reportedly missed out on a potential superteam-forming trade that would’ve landed him in Toronto alongside Leonard and George. Alas, he’ll get the chance to jack up 35 shots per game in OKC or maybe New York if the Knicks decide to delve further into chaos.
Brett Brown/Sixers Twitter
There’s no excuse. If Brett Brown fails to implement a system that best utilizes one of the most talented starting fives in the entire league, there will be no one to hold back Sixers Twitter. On the flip side, if Brown is able to make better in-game adjustments -especially with a great locker room addition in Horford and removal of Jimmy Butler- his detractors will have to go into hiding… for a bit at least. It’s Finals or bust for Brown. The chips have been pushed in. Is he the man to lead this team to their first title since 1983? We shall see.
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