In one of the most bizarre twists of any NBA free agency, Kawhi Leonard shocked the world when he announced his decision to sign with the LA Clippers. Not only that, but he masterminded a trade that ultimately landed the Clippers MVP candidate Paul George from Oklahoma City to be his running mate. There was plenty of speculation Kawhi was interested in Los Angeles, but many thought the Lakers would be his destination.
What nobody expected though, was Paul George to get traded. One season after signing a 4-year max deal, George requested a trade out of Oklahoma. Reportedly, both Westbrook and George were unhappy with the OKC franchise, which makes it extremely likely that former-MVP Westbrook also gets traded soon. George was traded for Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 5-first round draft picks, and two pick swaps.
With the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers are now absolutely stacked. They resigned Patrick Beverley earlier in the week and also added Mo Harkless in the trade that sent Hassan Whiteside to Portland. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are both still on the roster and now they’ve added two MVP candidates that are also some of the best two-way players in the entire league.
For their efforts, the Clippers are now actually the new title favorites for next season. After orchestrating the Anthony Davis trade, the Lakers had become favorites, but the addition of both Leonard and George completely flipped the script. Here are the new 2019-2020 NBA title favorites following the Paul George trade and Kawhi Leonard signing:
● Los Angeles Clippers: 3-1
● Los Angeles Lakers: 10-3
● Milwaukee Bucks: 13-2
● Philadelphia 76ers: 9-1
● Golden State Warriors: 12-1
There’s no secret that the Lakers were hoping to sign Kawhi. With his decision to sign with the Clippers, the Lakers were forced into their backup plan. With LeBron James captaining the ship and Anthony Davis serving as his running mate, the two make for one of the strongest duos in the entire league.
Following the Kawhi announcement, the Lakers have been working at a furious pace to fill out the roster. Danny Green was the first domino to fall, immediately signing a 2 year, $30 million contract with the Lakers. Green, Leonard’s long-time teammate, is also a 2-time NBA champion and offers excellent defense and 3-point shooting.
After Danny Green was signed, the Lakers decided to bring back center JaVale McGee. McGee had an excellent year last season, averaging a career high 12 points while also adding 7.5 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. It also gives them crucial center depth. And on a 2-year, $8.2 million deal, LA is getting incredible value for their money.
Lakerland also recently signed former Warriors player, Quinn Cook. Cook can offer some valuable 3-point shooting off the bench, and is absolutely worth it with a 2 year, $6 million contract. They also desperately needed a point guard, even if LeBron will be running the show most of the time.
Adding to their point guard depth, they also resigned Rajon Rondo. Rondo is an extremely intelligent veteran that is still capable of racking up double-digit assists on any night. His 2 year contract comes with a player option in the second year, and the first year will cost LA just $2.6 million. They’re also bringing back 2-year guard Alex Caruso. Kentavious Caldwell Pope is also joining the resigning party with a 2 year, $16 million contract.
Most importantly, the Lakers made quite a significant signing with DeMarcus Cousins. Boogie just had an interesting year in Golden State, but he did show he still has the savvy and talent to be a benefit to any contender. Making matters even better, his deal is a 1 year contract valued at just around $3.5 million. Even if he isn’t Sacramento-level DeMarcus Cousins, $3.5 million is a steal for the former best-center-in-the-league.
At this point, the Lakers starters are likely to be Rondo/Green/James/Davis/McGee, with Cook/Caldwell-Pope/Dudley/Kuzma/Cousins backing them up. Definitely a roster capable of competing with the Clippers and any other contenders in the league. After Marcus Morris agreed to a contract with the Spurs, the Lakers missed out on one of the bigger names still on the market.
There’s still one name that many forget about: Carmelo Anthony. Melo hasn’t played since November of 2018, but there’s no doubt there’s been mutual interest over the years between LeBron and Melo playing together. It was rumored he was going to sign with the Lakers last year, but that fizzled out when it became clear that LA was missing the playoffs.
With most free agent signings delayed by the Kawhi Leonard decision, there have been several signings following his announcement. There is now nothing stopping the Lakers from signing Carmelo Anthony, unless of course they decide he’s too washed up to play. After striking out in both Oklahoma City and Houston, the Lakers might just be Melo’s last shot to play NBA basketball, let alone win a title.