Two seasons ago, we heard Kawhi Leonard wanted to return to Los Angeles. However, if he went home, he was doing so playing in a Los Angeles Clippers’ uniform.
Last month, the Los Angeles Lakers made a desperate move to get then-New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis. They feared the possibility of him doing what Paul George did and re-signing with whatever team traded for him or possibly getting talked into staying in New Orleans, even though many felt that Davis was joining LeBron James next season via free agency.
After Davis got traded, he agreed to waive his $4 million trade kicker. The Lakers then got the Washington Wizards to take the contracts of Issac Bonga, Moritz Wagner and Jemerrio Jones, freeing up the $32 million in cap space to sign another max player.
The dysfunctional Lakers, who many thought messed up the initial trade, looked like a team that you took a double-take as a possible landing spot for another big name guy. But as the earthquakes rumbled in California, the NBA would be rocked as Leonard elected to go to the Clippers with Paul George (who they acquired via trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder).
Now the battle for LA commences.
Lakers: We Made It Work… Hopefully
Ryen Russillo asked Bill Simmons on his podcast a few days ago, “If you had the chance of getting as many of the top guys as you could, would you?”
The consensus answer would be yes; the Golden State Warriors did it with Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins. There’s a difference though. When those guys signed, Stephen Curry was under contract and so was Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. It’s not like they didn’t have a roster in place.
The Lakers had nobody under contract except Davis, James and Kyle Kuzma. In addition, Leonard coming wasn’t a sure thing. So, they waited and saw everyone that was in the free agent green room that you had your eye on go elsewhere via trade or because they didn’t want to wait.
So, the Lakers found themselves scraping the bottom of a barrel. Now I’ll give this to the Lakers, for a team that ranked 29th in 3-point accuracy last season, they found quality shooters.
Yet, you have to remember the NBA is copycat league after a team wins a title. With Leonard dethroning the Warriors, teams believe they need two stars and depth; just shooting alone won’t be enough.
Getting shooting was a good move but you needed more. The Lakers are surrounding themselves with solid locker room guys that have a better than average basketball IQ. More importantly, you signed them to the RIGHT deals.
- Danny Green: 2-year, $30 million
- DeMarcus Cousins: 1-year, $3.5 million
- Rajon Rondo: 2-year, $2.6 million
- Quinn Cook: 2-year, $6 million
- JaVale McGee: 2-year, $8 million
- Alex Caruso: 2-year, $5.5 million
The concern, to me, is who is that scorer off the bench? Assuming that Kuzma is starting, you’re hearing Carmelo Anthony being that guy. The problem with Melo is that he doesn’t play defense and has a game that is dated in today’s NBA.
You don’t know if you need him, but you need a guy who strictly gets you 8-10 points or more while LeBron and Davis sit on the bench or take their 15-20 load management games.
Chemistry is critical. The blessing is Rondo, Davis and Cousins played together when they were in New Orleans. I feel Rondo will be that guy that will say the right things to Cousins and Davis to get them ready to play. In addition, Cook, McGee and Green have championship experience.
You’re looking at a Lakers team that although they’ll have shooting, and guys with good IQ, they may be hindered defensively. They have a chance to be a good defensive team if everyone buys in, however, if a injury happens to a key guy, they are out for a while. So players may take plays off.
For what you missed out on and recovered with… this was not a bad off-season for the Lakers. If this group is healthy going into the playoffs, I don’t see how they could not be a team that goes deep into the playoffs and potentially wins a title.
In addition, we can’t forget that although the Lakers missed out on Leonard… YOU STILL GOT AD!!!! Through all the dysfunction and media criticism, you acquired one of the top 10 guys in the entire league.
Los Angeles should’ve known that Leonard wasn’t coming. However, they felt that if there was a CHANCE to get Leonard, they WOULD get him. Any team takes that chance. It’s time to see how the 16-time champs do this coming season.
Clippers: Our Chance to be Big Bro
Jerry West is the greatest executive ever. He’s made some of the greatest moves of all-time for every organization he’s been apart of.
According to reports, Leonard wanted to see if the Clippers could pull the Paul George trade off. Many insiders believed that the team would be out of the running for Leonard cause he wouldn’t have a second superstar. That’s why you had to think that Leonard considered the Lakers as an insurance plan.
Think about it.
The San Antonio injury in the playoffs vs Golden State (2015). Kawhi got injured, no second guy. He goes to Toronto and has the some of the best of playoff performances we’ve EVER witnessed. Yet, he got injured again and limped his way to a championship.
Again, he didn’t have a concrete second star, though Toronto had a winning record without him during the regular season and Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam showed up during the playoff run.
The Lakers would’ve been the place where Leonard potentially would be the guy if LeBron took that Dwayne Wade role or Leonard could be the second guy, which isn’t a problem. Additionally, he would not have to work as hard cause he’d have Davis and James, he’d get 15-20 games off AND be in LA. He wouldn’t lose.
If he felt that he could run it back with the same roster in Toronto, there’s no question he’d stay. And here’s the crazy thing… it almost happened. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Oklahoma City Thunder executive Sam Presti pursued a deal that would send Russell Westbrook and George to the Raptors for Siakam, but Masai Ujiri couldn’t match the haul of draft picks the Clippers were willing to sacrifice to unite George and Leonard.
So Leonard asking for one, possibly two stars meant that he didn’t want to do it again on his own. So, the Clippers moved heaven and earth to get George as the security blanket Kawhi was asking for. The trade was not only to acquire George but for Leonard as well.
However, if what the purple and gold gave up was too much for Davis, Presti got the mother load back for George.
Kawhi didn’t want make yet another super-team in the “super-team” era, at least not with LeBron. Can’t blame him for that. He has the juice. He had the amazing playoff run and dethroned the greatest dynasty we’ve had in the last decade, albeit due to injury.
He wanted that second star. Durant had made up his mind and was going to play with Kyrie Irving and was going to New York. The next best option was Paul George.
Yet, you understand that this has to work for the Clippers with the pairing of George and Leonard. Everyone is looking at them as a lock for the Finals now, because although the Clippers took Golden State to six games in the playoffs, this team wasn’t going to get better if they ran it back.
With this trade you’ve given up your entire future in hopes to bring the franchise its first title.
Now you have a guy in Leonard, who is probably taking 20 games off per year the rest of his career. Yet, he seems to have his fair share of injuries that although he plays through, you hope they aren’t costly down the line. George was great last year before he suffered his injury, but he’s had an injury history with his shoulders and knees.
If this doesn’t work for the Clippers, this will be the second time the Clippers will have been considered the better LA team and didn’t deliver. This is the Clippers’ best chance to no longer be looked at as the little brother to their rivals across the hall.
The Lakers aren’t off the hook either. They understand that last year was a wash. However, they’ve now given up THEIR future for LeBron and Davis. If they fail, this will be one of the most remembered failures in Lakers history. Laker Nation will expect nothing less than a championship.
The clock ticks for both LA teams. Not only to be the NBA’s king, but the king of Tinseltown.