The Los Angeles Clippers signed free agent forward Kawhi Leonard, this year’s NBA FInals MVP with the Toronto Raptors, to a reported three-year, $103-million US maximum contract, and officially completed a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder for Paul George on Wednesday.
Lawrence Frank, the Clippers president of basketball operations, announced the moves Wednesday, but did not disclose terms of the deal, which have been reported by multiple outlets.
“This is a historic moment for our organization and our fans,” said Frank. “We are grateful and honoured that Kawhi Leonard has decided to come home and join the L.A. Clippers. Kawhi is a peerless two-way player, a relentless worker and a natural fit for the serious, professional culture our group has established. He wins everywhere he goes, and he always has, from King High School to San Diego State to the NBA. Having him on our side is a tremendous privilege and a massive responsibility, one we will take very seriously. His expectation, and ours, is to contend for championships.”
It was originally reported that Leonard would receive a four-year, $142-million maximum contract.
Leonard’s deal is actually for two years guaranteed with a third-year player option, according to Shams Charania of rhe Athletic. That would allow Leonard, a 28-year-old Southern California native, to opt out and become a free agent again in 2021.
“Paul George is one of the greatest two-way players in our game,” said Frank. “He is both an elite scorer and a relentless defender whose versatility elevates any team. When you have the opportunity to acquire a contributor of his caliber, you do what it takes to bring him home. Paul is a native of the Los Angeles area and an ideal fit for the Clippers, thanks to his selflessness and drive. Following the lead of Steve Ballmer, we have plotted an aggressive course to build a championship contender, and acquiring Paul is a critical step.”
‘Unreasonable’ demands of Raptors
Leonard, who last month led the Raptors to their first NBA championship after he was acquired in a trade from the San Antonio Spurs last July, reportedly selected the Clippers over the Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers. According to TSN of Canada, Leonard made “unreasonable” demands of the Raptors during contract talks.
Leonard averaged 26.6 points and 7.3 rebounds over 60 regular-season games with the Raptors in 2018-19. Over 24 playoff games, he averaged 30.5 points with 9.1 rebounds.
In the NBA Finals, Leonard scored 28.5 points per game with 9.8 rebounds as Toronto defeated the Golden State Warriors in six games, dethroning the defending champs.
The three-time all-star, who was drafted 15th overall by the Indiana Pacers in 2011, has averaged 17.7 points and 6.3 rebounds over 467 games (440 starts) with the Spurs and the Raptors.
Along with Leonard and George, the 2021 free-agent class could potentially include the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bradley Beal, Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, and LeBron James, who has a player option for 2021 on the four-year deal he signed with the Lakers last off-season.