Report: Thunder GM played Clippers, Raptors against each other
The Oklahoma City Thunder received an unprecedented haul from the Los Angeles Clippers in the Paul George trade, and that is because general manager Sam Presti played an unfortunate situation to perfection.
According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Presti managed to play the Clippers and Toronto Raptors against each other once George asked to be traded, which was earlier in the week. Both the Clippers and Raptors knew acquiring George would likely be the move that would allow them to sign Leonard, and Presti used that to his advantage.
Wojnarowski reports that Presti pursued a blockbuster deal that would have sent both George and Russell Westbrook to Toronto with Pascal Siakam as the centerpiece of the return package. Raptors president Masai Ujiri was not interested, feeling that any factors that might lead Leonard to want to sign with the Clippers — such as Kawhi’s Southern California roots — were out of his control. While Ujiri may have never really considered making the deal, the negotiations undoubtedly put more pressure on the Clippers.
In the end, Presti was able to secure four unprotected first-round picks and one protected first-round pick in addition to swapping some picks with the Clippers. Oklahoma City also got Danilo Gallinari and 2018 first-round pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Between the Raptors still fighting to keep Leonard and the Lakers appearing on the verge of assembling a dynasty, Presti was essentially able to name his asking price.
Leonard probably was not going to sign with the Lakers anyway, but Magic Johnson may have sealed their fate with his big mouth. Still, their presence in the sweepstakes combined with George being a key factor allowed Presti to get as much as the Thunder could have hoped for in the deal.