Shame on you if went to bed early on Friday night (or Saturday morning for those on the East Coast). If you did, you missed the breaking news that Kawhi Leonard had agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers. And just like that, we got another seismic shift in the NBA’s landscape.
Clippers Make Money Moves
It is as strange to read as it is to write. Kawhi Leonard is a Clipper. Lakers fans as well as the media, established or aspiring members, spent days stoking the fires of speculation that Leonard would be joining Laker nation. Only the most reliable and cautious hesitated to pontificate, and with good reason as Kawhi and the Clippers moved in silence. Unbeknownst to the public, Kawhi had let the Clippers know that he not only required a second star but he had a specific player in mind.
And just like that, before the dust could settle, came more blockbuster news that the Clippers had parlayed a treasure trove of draft assets to acquire Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder. This news broke immediately after word got out of Leonard’s signing, stunning the already dazed NBA masses. To make this move, the Clippers gave up several draft picks spanning until the 2026 season, along with potential star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and veteran forward Danilo Gallinari.
The Clippers also waived bench players Tyrone Wallace and Sindarius Thornwell as they continue to round out their new roster. The Clippers re-signed restricted free agent Ivica Zubac to a four-year, $28 million contract to help secure the low post. Additionally, the Clippers had already re-signed Patrick Beverley and guaranteed the final year of Lou Williams’ contract. Factor these moves in with the addition of Maurice Harkless and Rodney McGruder, and it’s clear why many have the Clippers among next year’s group of legitimate title contenders.
As was expected, Leonard’s decision allowed many of the remaining free agents to settle their respective free agency situations.
The Lakers Aftermath
The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t waste much time after being spurned by Leonard and moved quickly to acquire sharpshooter forward Danny Green to a two-year, $30 million contract. While the price is high, reportedly due to a competing three-year offer from the Dallas Mavericks, the Lakers managed to keep the contract at two years to maintain long-term flexibility while getting the 3-and-D wing they need.
The Lakers also added a pair of centers by re-signing JaVale McGee on a two-year, $8.2 million deal and Warriors free agent center DeMarcus Cousins on a one-year deal worth $3.5 million. The purple and gold are also re-signing a pair of point guards in Rajon Rando to a two-year deal and Alex Caruso on a one-year deal worth $5.5 million.
Toronto and Oklahoma City
The Toronto Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard knowing the risk they could lose him a year later when he became a free agent, a risk they have seen some come to pass. The reward, that they might win a championship in that single season, also occurred. And just like that, so ends the Kawhi Leonard era in Toronto. So long to Green as well. Norman Powell, who had some nice moments last season, and O.G. Anunoby will slot in as replacement wings should the Raptors stand pat in their title defense.
Part of this new era involved the signing of Detroit Pistons’ castaway forward Stanley Johnson to a two-year, $7.5 million with a player option. The Raptors of course now need help on the wing and Johnson represents an affordable flyer on a young, talented player who has yet to find his stride in the NBA.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are now the recipients of a record-setting haul of future draft assets that the Clippers had methodically acquired over the last two seasons. Whether the team moves on from Russell Westbrook is the next big decision the Thunder. With so many draft assets, the Thunder have the ability to shift gears to a full-tilt rebuild with a possible trade with the Miami HEAT being rumored as a possible landing spot for Westbrook.
Memphis acquired Dwight Howard in a trade with the Washington Wizards. Howard hasn’t been healthy or made a serious impact in the NBA in quite a while so time will tell if there is any major impact from this trade. Howard is likely to be bought out of his contract and hit the free agency market. Where he may end up is yet to be determined. So far there doesn’t seem to be a line forming for Howard’s services.
Marcus Morris, another name oft-linked to the Lakers as a potential signing should the team fail to land Leonard, did sign following Leonard’s decision. However, Morris signed a new two-year, $20 million contract, including a second-year player option, with the San Antonio Spurs.
In a strategic move that should surely help to ensure good rapport with their own superstar (Giannis Antetokounmpo), the Bucks signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo to a two-year, $3 million deal.
Also, the Dallas Mavericks acquired guard Delon Wright on a new three-year, $29 million deal through a sign-and-trade with the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for two second-round picks.
With the Clippers blockbuster acquisition of Leonard and George, the NBA landscape has again shifted in a major way. Other teams were able to move forward with some of their own smaller moves, however, there are still several noteworthy players still available in the free agent market. There have been so many moves that the conversation and analysis of this offseason’s transactions is sure to continue on throughout the summer. Check back with Basketball Insiders often for our ongoing coverage of what has been one of the most hectic and eventful offseasons in recent memory.
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