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Did Los Angeles Clippers give up too much for two guaranteed years of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George?

Thursday 11 July 2019 17:18, UK

Kawhi Leonard in a celebratory mood during the Toronto Raptors' victory parade 3:00
The Los Angeles Clippers only have control over the contracts of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for two years, did they give up too much to acquire their new stars?

Did the Los Angeles Clippers give up too much for what we now know is just two guaranteed years of superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George?

The Los Angeles Clippers signed free agent forward Kawhi Leonard to a three-year, $103m maximum contract and officially completed a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder for Paul George on Wednesday.

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It was originally reported Leonard would sign a four-year, $142m deal with the Clippers but The Athletic revealed the Finals MVP's deal is actually for two years guaranteed with a third-year player option. That would allow Leonard, a 28-year-old Southern California native, to opt out and become a free agent again in 2021. George also has two years guaranteed and a player option remaining on his deal.

Paul George guards Kawhi Leonard in a Thunder-Raptors regular season game
Image: Paul George guards Kawhi Leonard in a Thunder-Raptors regular season game

The Clippers surrendered veteran swingman Danilo Gallinari, young point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and five future first-round draft picks to Oklahoma City Thunder to acquire George. Without George, the Clippers would not have been Leonard's free agency destination of choice.

Graphic illustrating the assets surrendered by the Los Angeles Clippers to acquire Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder
Image: Graphic illustrating the assets surrendered by the Los Angeles Clippers to acquire Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder

Have the Clippers paid too high a price for two years with their newly-acquired superstars? NBA TV analyst Antonio Daniels believes they have taken a risk that was worth taking.

"To be successful in this league, you have to take risks, there is no way around it," Daniels said on NBA Gametime. "Look at the Raptors this past year. Masai Ujiri took a risk on Kawhi Leonard for one year. You know what they got? Their first NBA championship.

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"I will never be upset at an NBA general manager swinging for the fences. Sam Presti did it a couple of years ago to get Paul George [to Oklahoma City].

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"But this is a big risk for the Clippers. They have given up a lot. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a heck of a young basketball player [to let go] and they gave up five future first-round draft picks for two years [of Leonard and George]. Hopefully, the risk will be worth the reward.

Kawhi Leonard attacks the rim in the Raptors' Game 5 win over the 76ers 5:51
Relive Kawhi Leonard's superb 2019 postseason performances that have led the Toronto Raptors to the NBA Finals

What sort of return will make that risk worthwhile? Daniels feels the Clippers have to aim as high as possible.

"The Clippers have never been to the Western Conference Finals but I think, if you are a Clippers fan, you won't be satisfied with any less than an NBA championship now you have two of the 10 best players in the world," he said.

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"What team in the NBA today can you say is better than the Los Angeles Clippers? You will have a hard time finding one.

"With that alone, you can argue that the Clippers have won this deal. In today's NBA, with no 'super team' out there dominating with star power, you have to look at the Clippers as early title favourites."

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