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.
Kawhi Leonard choosing to sign with the LA Clippers in free agency was not a huge surprise, but the massive shocker was Paul George being acquired by the team in a trade. The team’s ability to land George is what made signing Leonard possible.
So just how did that come together? According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard met with George in Los Angeles to recruit him to join him on the Clippers. George complied and approached the Thunder to request a trade. Woj says Oklahoma City did not want to enter a season with a discontent star, so they made the deal.
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
Paul George asked the Thunder for a trade within the last few days, and according to sources OKC felt it had no choice but to find a deal to reboot, rather than risk a bad situation all year long with an unhappy star
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 6, 2019
Sources: Leonard and George met in LA earlier in week. Clippers had long been frontrunners for Leonard, but it is unlikely he would've made final leap to sign without PG trade. Clippers imagined Leonard as part of a Lakers Big 3 — and knew they had no choice. They did OKC deal.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 6, 2019
There are a few takeaways here.
One is that for all the jokes about him being anti-social, Leonard turned out to be a great recruiter. He reportedly tried to get Kevin Durant to join him on the Clippers. When that didn’t work out, he recruited Paul George and made that happen.
Two is that the Thunder are completely retooling and now will have several future draft picks and a few quality players in Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to join Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, and the rest of the Thunder.
The LA Clippers pulled off the biggest moves of the NBA summer as they have completely remade their roster with a couple of true superstar players.
Kawhi Leonard has decided to sign with the Clippers, word emerged on Friday night via Yahoo’s Chris Haynes. At the same time ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Clippers acquired Paul George in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Woj says Danilo Gallinari and 2018 first-round pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are being traded to the Thunder, along with a record package of future draft picks. The draft picks include four unprotected first-round picks, one protected first-round pick and two pick swaps, according to Woj.
That is a massive haul of picks, but it was worth it to the Clippers to pair together two of the best two-way players in the league. They’re also keeping most of their supporting cast together, which gives them a true championship contender.
They have reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, whose contract they guaranteed for the 2020-2021 season. They re-signed Patrick Beverley earlier in free agency. Montrezl Harrell, Jerome Robinson, Landry Shamet, Rodney McGruder and Sindarius Thornwell are other players under contract with the team. They also acquired Moe Harkless in a trade this offseason.
The Clippers now have the reigning NBA Finals MVP, and a player who was a finalist for NBA MVP and NBA Defensive Player of the Year in George. Between that star power and their team in place, the Clippers have to be the favorites to win it all next season.
Despite both players recently dealing with injuries, they have plenty of prime years left. Leonard is 28 while George is 29. Leonard only played in nine games two seasons ago due to his quad injury. He played in 60 regular season games last season while managing his return from the injury. George played hurt during the playoffs but has been expected to undergo surgeries on each of his shoulders this offseason. He had rotator cuff surgery to repair a partially torn tendon in his right shoulder. George was also set to undergo surgery to repair a small tear in the labrum of his left shoulder.
Paul George took a trip down memory lane on Friday and credited LeBron James for being his inspiration.
George shared a video on Instagram Friday of his monster dunk on Chris Andersen during Game 2 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals between his Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat. On the play, George drove past James and jammed on Andersen for a huge dunk.
George is now one of the best players in the league and a finalist for two huge awards. But back then, he was only in his third season in the league, and he was just getting on the map as an emerging player. He averaged 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game that season and made his first All-Star team. He went toe-to-toe with LeBron as his Pacers pushed the Heat to a Game 7 in the first of two straight conference finals between the teams.
There was so much respect between George and James that it was visible on the court during games.
George captioned the photo: “A trip down memory lane! I blame and thank @kingjames for what just happened lol you pushed me to another level bro! #MissThemLegs”
The caption and moment serves as a reminder of how facing the best competition can help bring out the best in players. Matching up against LeBron helped George take his game to new levels.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George are viewed as two of the top players in the NBA, and this year’s awards seem to show that in a big way.
The NBA on Friday announced the finalists for each of the awards that will be handed out during their awards show on June 24. Antetokounmpo and George were both listed as finalists for NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. James Harden is the other finalist for MVP and Utah’s Rudy Gobert is in the mix for Defensive Player of the Year.
— NBA (@NBA) May 18, 2019
The NBA MVP race had long been viewed as a two-way competition between Harden and Antetokounmpo. Giannis averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 57.8 percent shooting, all of which were career-best marks. His Milwaukee Bucks had the best record during the regular season at 60-22.
Harden averaged a league-best 36.1 points per game and helped carry the Houston Rockets to the 5th-best record in the league. His points scoring average is the 7th-highest in NBA history.
George averaged 28.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.2 steals per game, all of which tied or set a career-high mark. His candidacy took a big boost when he blew up in February and averaged 35 points per game that month. Things changed after he suffered a shoulder injury on Feb. 26 that sank his stats (his points dropped off and shooting went down by nearly four percent) and played a big role in Oklahoma City’s early playoff exit.
Harden won NBA MVP last season, while Antetokounmpo finished sixth in voting. George’s best MVP finish came in 2013-2014 when he finished ninth. Gobert is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s star players both underwent surgery after their season ended, according to a report.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski shared that Paul George underwent shoulder surgery on Tuesday. George is expected to undergo two different shoulder surgeries this offseason, one on each shoulder. He had rotator cuff surgery to repair a partially torn tendon in his right shoulder. Woj says George will also undergo surgery to repair a small tear in the labrum of his left shoulder.
The shoulder injuries will likely keep George out for at least the start of training camp.
George suffered the right shoulder injury on Feb. 26 against the Denver Nuggets. The Thunder were 38-21 at the time but dropped to 11-12 after his injury. George’s shooting percentages and scoring declined after the injury. He went through a difficult time in the playoffs while battling the injury.
In addition to George, Russell Westbrook also underwent a procedure to repair a torn ligament in his finger on his left hand. Woj reports that Westbrook played the final six weeks of the season with the injury and never went public about it. He also underwent some maintenance surgery on his right knee — the same one that caused him to miss some time at the start of the season.
The Thunder’s season ended up April 23 after a Game 5 loss to the Blazers in the first round of the playoffs.
It has not taken a lot of time for the NBA playoffs to produce some incredibly memorable and elite performances. The first round alone offered a whole lot of signature moments for the game’s leading stars, and the second round has gotten off to a running start in that regard as well.
Which players have led the charge? Here are the top ten performers in the NBA playoffs so far.
10. C.J. McCollum, Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard got the majority of the headlines for Portland, and deservedly so, but McCollum has stepped up his game in the playoffs to help his teammate along. When the Trail Blazers won, he was usually in the middle of it. In Portland’s two most lopsided wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder, McCollum had his two best scoring games of the playoffs, contributing 33 and 27 points. His 23 points per game is the 12th-best mark in the playoffs, ahead of the likes of top scoring guards Russell Westbrook and DeMar DeRozan.