With the Warriors entering a new phase of their franchise following their NBA Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors and the departure of Kevin Durant, the Los Angeles Clippers saw an opening in the Western Conference.
Kawhi Leonard was the key to taking the Clippers from plucky role-player fueled underdogs to legitimate NBA champions, and Clips owner Steve Ballmer and Co. did what was necessary to ensure they secured the star. In the end, the Clippers got their man, convincing Leonard to sign with them while simultaneously orchestrating a trade for Thunder superstar Paul George.
It was a power move that shook the NBA to its core. Adding Leonard and George gives the Clippers a pair of elite two-way wings, but George apparently wasn't their first choice for Leonard's co-star.
Before the Clippers called the Thunder about George, LAC inquired about the availability of James Harden and Bradley Beal, The Athletic's Sam Amick and Jovan Buha reported Tuesday, citing league sources.
Neither the Rockets or the Wizards were willing to discuss trading their star, so the Clippers moved on to the Thunder and landed George for a package of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and a boatload of draft picks.
The Rockets then pounced on the suddenly rebuilding Thunder, trading Chris Paul, two draft picks and two pick swaps to OKC for Russell Westbrook, getting Harden an in-his-prime star to lead the Rockets' charge to supplant the Warriors atop the Western Conference.
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A pairing of Leonard and Harden or Leonard and Beal would have been deadly, but neither packs the 1-2 punch that Leonard and George do on both ends of the floor. As such, the Clippers now enter next season as the favorites to win the NBA title, with the Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers right on their heels.
As for the Warriors, they hope Steph Curry, Draymond Green and D'Angelo Russell can keep them afloat until Klay Thompson returns from his torn ACL.