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.
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.
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.
Paul George had no problem with the game-winning shot Damian Lillard hit over him to send the Portland Trail Blazers to the second round of the playoffs, as the Oklahoma City Thunder star felt he did all he could do to defend a “bad shot.” Lillard, however, views it much, much differently.
Lillard discussed his deep three-pointer during an appearance on the “Pull Up” podcast this week, and he said he has made a conscious effort to add those long-range shots to his arsenal so defenders have something else to think about. Not only is he “comfortable” with the shot, but he feels George should have defended him differently since there were only two seconds left on the clock.
“To me, it’s a solid shot. For him to say it’s a bad shot, that’s just kind of being a poor sport,” Lillard said. “It was bad defense, because I had the ball in my hand with two seconds. I wasn’t gonna drive, so maybe he should have just bodied me up.”
George obviously didn’t want to risk putting Lillard at the free throw line, and it didn’t look like there was much more he could have done to prevent the 36-foot shot. That said, calling it a “bad shot” might be a stretch, because Lillard actually converted on 8-of-12 shots from 30 feet and beyond during the series.
Paul George was not impressed with the shot selection on Damian Lillard’s series-clinching three-pointer against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night, and Lillard seems quite amused by that.
George was the one defending Lillard when the Portland Trail Blazers star buried a three-pointer at the buzzer to send his team to the next round of the playoffs. There was nothing more George could have done, as Lillard chose to put up a shot from about 36 feet out. Following the game, George called it a “bad shot.”
"That's a bad shot. I don't care what anybody says. That's a bad shot. But, hey, he made it. That story won't be told, that it is a bad shot. You live with that." – Paul George on Damian Lillard's game winner.
Lillard made 8-of-12 shots from 30 feet or beyond in the series against OKC, so it is clearly a better shot for him than most. He also knew that the game was tied and the worst-case scenario was going to overtime, so that probably was a factor in his decision to launch such a deep attempt. When Lillard caught wind of what George said about the shot, he had a very simple response.
There is plenty of bad blood between the Thunder and Blazers, and Lillard’s reaction after hitting his series-winner was a reflection of that. Even if his shot came from half court, it got the job done. That’s something George and his OKC teammates will have to live with until next season.