It’s official ladies and gentlemen, Kawhi watch is now over. In a shocking move in which many ruled out earlier this week, including NBA Insider Arye Abraham, Kawhi Leonard has joined the LA Clippers. Last off-season, the two time Finals MVP requested a trade from the San Antonio Spurs with his sights set on Los Angeles. Initially, many though the Lakers were Leonard’s preferred target. However, whispers grew louder and louder that Kawhi Leonard did not appreciate the idea of playing alongside LeBron James as his perceived sidekick. As everyone knows, Leonard was later traded to the Toronto Raptors where he went on one of the most historic and prolific postseason runs in the history of basketball, bringing a whole country their first championship.
A year after the rumors began, Leonard hit free agency this summer after declining his player option with Toronto. As the week has gone on, many eliminated the Clippers from consideration as the most plugged-in and informed sources acknowledged #kawhiwatch as a battle ending with him in Toronto or as a Laker. Suddenly, on the morning of July 6th, 2019, a two time Finals MVP who grew up in Los Angeles was announced to be signing with not the Lakers, but the Clippers. The NBA world was shocked and beat journalists everywhere were left looking foolish.
As if Leonard joining the Clippers wasn’t enough to give their fan base hope, then the unfathomable occurred: the Clippers traded five first round picks, swapped two first rounders for second rounders, and also traded young star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander along with star forward Danilo Gallinari to the Thunder for All-Star lockdown defender Paul George. Out of thin air, the Clippers managed to team up Kawhi Leonard and Paul George alongside Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley. Just like that, the Clippers catapulted themselves into consideration as NBA Finals favorites by many.
The Lakers may have missed out on Kawhi Leonard, the grand prize they were hoping for during free agency, but they rebounded with magnificent roster building moves following the shocking Clippers moves. Purple and gold front office members then went and signed one of the most underrated 3andD players in the league via shooting guard Danny Green, while also resigning key depth pieces like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Javale McGee. With perhaps still the best duo in the league right now with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, alongside solid depth in young star Kyle Kuzma, and pieces like Green, McGee, and Pope, the Lakers have finals aspirations.
Without a doubt, the Clippers now hold the two best perimeter defenders of our generation on the same roster via George and Leonard. Furthermore, Patrick Beverley is an extremely underrated perimeter defender as well, frustrating opposing point guards league wide. As if the scoring prowess of Leonard and George also weren’t enough, the Clippers have perhaps the greatest sixth man of our generation who scored over 20 points per game off the bench last season. The Clippers have somehow managed to construct a roster with superstar scoring ability in both the starting and bench rotations, while creating the most imposing perimeter defending duo of all time.
Additionally, the Lakers have paired up one of the greatest of all time and the most dominant all-around forward in the game with the league’s best big man. However, as proven this past finals matchup, depth wins championships. The Lakers now have that much needed depth after signing Danny Green who consistently averages over a steal per game and guarded Stephen Curry much of the NBA Finals. Also, Green shot a career high 45% from three point range this season (an astounding rate) on 5.4 three point attempts per game. When thinking back to the lakers two biggest weaknesses last season, they are pretty clear: defense and deep shooting. Green excels in both areas with ease. Meanwhile, the Lakers also have a 23 year old Kyle Kuzma, who averaged 18 points per game last season on 45% shooting alongside solid depth pieces such as Javale McGee and Caldwell-Pope. Overall, the lakers look to be a very solid roster, which brings both an explosive superstar duo and imposing depth.
Going into the 2019-2020 NBA season, both the LA Lakers and LA Clippers have reason to be considered the front runners to win it all in June. Suddenly, one Anthony Davis trade, one Kawhi Leonard signing, one Paul George trade, and a whole lot of roster rounding out later, the Lakers and Clippers look to dominate the NBA for years to come. If there was money to be gambled, putting it on the Lakers and Clippers annually facing off in the Western Conference finals seems a safe bet. The city of Los Angeles has many reasons to be excited with plenty of basketball dominance looming. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Los Angeles’ league… other teams are just playing in it.