Free-agent forward Kawhi Leonard will reportedly be signing with the Los Angeles Clippers and teaming with fellow All-Star Paul George, whom the Clippers are acquiring from the Oklahoma City Thunder for a trade package that features a number of future first-round draft selections, ESPN reported Saturday morning.
Citing league sources who spoke to the outlet’s Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN wrote that Leonard has already informed the “runner-up teams” who were also in the running for his services that he plans to sign with the Clippers. Meanwhile, George will be headed to Los Angeles from Oklahoma City for a package that includes the Clippers’ 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024, and 2026 first-round picks and the rights to swap selections in the 2023 and 2025 drafts. The Thunder will also be receiving incoming second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and veteran forward Danilo Gallinari as part of the deal.
In the days leading up to Leonard’s apparent decision to sign with the Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers emerged as a top candidate to land the 28-year-old forward. But with Leonard saving his erstwhile team, the Toronto Raptors, for last after he had previously met with the Lakers and the Clippers, ESPN’s Jalen Rose said on Wednesday that there is a “99 percent” chance that the 2019 NBA Finals MVP would sign a new two-year contract with the defending champions, as reported by USA Today‘s For the Win.
Even with Fox Sports 1’s Cris Carter countering Rose’s comments and reporting that Leonard was not interested in signing a short-term deal to remain in Toronto, the Raptors were still listed as “frontrunners” for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year’s services as of Friday, according to Sports Illustrated.
However, things ultimately worked out in the Clippers’ favor, as ESPN further noted in its report on the apparent blockbuster deal. Per the outlet’s sources, Leonard and George “wanted to play together,” which prompted George and his agent to meet with Thunder general manager Sam Presti “in recent days” and ask for a trade.
After spending the first seven seasons of his NBA career with the San Antonio Spurs, Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors last summer, where he averaged 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.8 steals in 60 regular-season games in the 2018-19 season. Per Basketball-Reference, Leonard averaged 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.7 steals per game in this year’s playoffs, where he led the Raptors to their first-ever NBA championship against the Golden State Warriors.
A six-time NBA All-Star and five-time All-NBA selection, Paul George averaged 28 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 2.2 steals last season for the Oklahoma City Thunder but failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs, where the Thunder lost their first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers in five games.