Kawhi Leonard Signs With Clippers

JULY 10: Leonard has officially signed his contract with the Clippers, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link), who reports an interesting twist.

Kawhi’s new contract will actually be a three-year deal with a third-year player option, per Charania. That would give the star forward an opportunity to opt out and secure a higher maximum salary in 2021, when he’ll have 10 years of NBA experience.

As Charania notes (via Twitter), that also lines up Leonard’s deal with George’s — both players can opt out in ’21.

Leonard’s three-year, maximum-salary contract will be worth $103,137,300.

JULY 6: Reigning NBA Finals MVP  and top 2019 free agent Kawhi Leonard has decided to sign with the Clippers, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). Leonard has informed the runner-up teams – the Raptors and Lakers – of his decision, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Although the Clippers had been rumored all year to be the top contender for Leonard, his decision still represents a shocking turn, as reports in recent weeks had increasingly pointed toward the Lakers or the defending-champion Raptors as more probable long-term homes for Kawhi while those Clippers rumors died down to some extent.

However, it will be the little brother in Los Angeles that makes the biggest splash of 2019’s free agent period, as the Clippers have also agreed to acquire Paul George in a trade with the Thunder. Leonard had been recruiting George to try to find a way to team up with him on the Clippers, according to Wojnarowski, who tweets that the two All-NBA forwards found a way to pull it off after George requested a trade from Oklahoma City.

Leonard’s agreement with the Clippers – which will be a four-year, maximum-salary deal worth just shy of $141MM, per Wojnarowski (Twitter link) – represents the culmination of a saga that began during the 2017/18 season, when Kawhi missed all but nine games for the Spurs due to a mysterious quad injury.

A disagreement between Spurs team doctors and Leonard’s camp about the extent of that injury led to the two-time Defensive Player of the Year losing trust in the franchise and making a trade request. Although Leonard was reportedly pushing for a deal that would send him home to Los Angeles, the Spurs instead traded him to Toronto in a blockbuster swap that featured DeMar DeRozan.

In his first and only season as a Raptor, Leonard led the team to a No. 2 seed in the East, then put together one of the all-time great postseason runs to help Toronto claim its first-ever NBA championship. Having averaged 26.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and 3.3 RPG in 60 regular season contests, Leonard boosted those marks to 30.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, and 3.9 APG in 24 playoff games, posting a .490/.379/.884 shooting line against the Magic, Sixers, Bucks, and Warriors.

As Leonard weighed his free decision over the last week and took meetings with the three teams in the running for him, there was a sense that the Raptors and Lakers might have the most to offer the star forward. He had built a trust with the management team and training staff in Toronto, and the Raps had the ability to offer him a five-year contract, as well as the chance to defend a championship.

The Lakers, on the other hand, offered the opportunity to team with LeBron James and Anthony Davis — adding Leonard to that duo would have created arguably the NBA’s all-time best “Big Three” and made the Lakers the immediate frontrunners for the 2020 title.

The Clippers, meanwhile, had missed out on 2019’s other top free agents, leaving league observers to wonder if Leonard would still seriously consider them without a star to join him. However, Kawhi made it clear to the Clippers that he would commit to them if they could land George, tweets Wojnarowski.

The Clips paid a high price to do so, surrendering Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, five first-round picks, and two first-round pick swaps, but considering it was also the price necessary to acquire Leonard, it makes sense that the organization was extremely willing to go all-in on PG13.

Leonard will now team up with George to lead a roster that also features Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Landry Shamet, Rodney McGruder, Maurice Harkless, Jerome Robinson, and potentially RFA Ivica Zubac.

With Leonard headed to the Clippers, the Lakers will pivot to using their $32MM in cap room on role players, having quickly reached a deal to sign Kawhi’s longtime teammate Danny Green.

As for the Raptors, they’re capped out with or without Leonard and Green, so their ability to add new talent will be limited. Still, without needing to account for new deals for those two players, they’ll have their full mid-level exception available and don’t project to be a taxpaying team in 2019/20.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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84 thoughts on “Kawhi Leonard Signs With Clippers

        • Brad Stevens is all Celtics. Jealous of Southern California and Lakers historical Dynasty.

          Celtics are going to be crummy this year. Wounded and cornered animal is vicious.

          • Jealous of Toronto winning the title in the east. Just striking out at everyone. Celtics are going to be down for a while.

          • dimitrios in la

            Celtics have a GM who has created a culture of uncertainty and mistrust. Talent can’t overcome that.

  1. Eta34

    I’m a suffering Clippers fan. I like that Balmer is going all in here. Not sure it’s enough, but it’s great to have hope.

    • dimitrios in la

      Well there’s something great going on in Clippers nation, even before this trade they were creating something really good there.

    • Ironmonger835

      Adding two MVP candidates while also keeping the good role players they got should get them there.

  2. Thronson5

    Damn!! Left the Lakers hanging to miss out on everyone to sign with the Clippers. Had to have been the plan. That sucks. But good for the Clipper and good for him to be home and his family. Sucks for the Raptors too but at least they got that Championship finally. He deserves to go where he wants so more power to him. Just wish we wouldn’t have waited this long and moved on.

    • He didn’t leave anybody hanging. He said go get Paul George and whoever does, that’s who I’ll sign with.

  3. skrockij89

    Damn. Was hoping he would go back to Toronto. I’m sure his uncle made the decision for him.

  4. padam

    Two of the same player – great offense, even better defense. Clippers just jumped to number one.

  5. kylewait89

    I’m not sure the Clippers are number one depending on what they gave for George. Kind of interesting to see how monumentally the NBA has shifted in a short time.

  6. goldenmisfit

    So Leonard decided to sign with the team that just mortgage their entire future good plan LOL

    • fishy 9 dogs

      Right? What an insane trade. PG is great, but not worth that much. The thunder just came up.

      • You keep the pics and get one guy every year that “might” be great. Or you can trade some of the pics you got from elsewhere plus a couple of your own and get a stud…, and also get another stud, and add to your up and coming team.

        No brainer to me. Especially when one of the studs is the best player in the NBA right now.

    • C-Daddy

      Because the Lakers didn’t mortgage their future for Anthony Davis, right?

      • fishy 9 dogs

        They did, but not to this degree. BUT, the clippers definitely have more depth at this point.

    • ColossusOfClout

      Ya, ya, ya. Same idiots saying TO mortgaged their future to get one year of Kawhi. Then what happened?

  7. Thronson5

    Who saw this and the Paul George trade. That’s wild. You think OKC gore rebuild and trades Westbrook? Wouldn’t blame him for asking but doubt his pride will drop and he will ask for one.

    • Yes could be, but where are you going to trade Westbrook? Who would take on that firecracker?

      Plus, who would give up a truckload that it would take to get him and everything that goes along with it?

      I think he’s untradeable really. Such a great player it would take quite a bit to get him but then you weigh the other things.

  8. petersdylan36

    So who can they now trade Westbrook’s to?

    • fishy 9 dogs

      Timberwolves as well. If they go the wolves route:

      Wiggins, Teague, Dieng, 2-3 1st rounders for Westbrook and Grant.

      • You know what, a team like the Timberwolves who are sort of desperate to make a big move, could trade for Westbrook. They need to do something and a risky thing like that could pay off for them. A team such as the Timberwolves, like why not? Got to go for it. Only thing is you have to strip your team for a volatile guy. Extremely risky.

  9. x%sure

    The wait was to screw the Lakers. Should have seen that coming. Am I still not yet cynical enough for the NBA?

    • alonsoball

      The wait was to see if the Clippers could pull the PG deal. Screwing the Lakers is a byproduct, that was always the risk for being too greedy going all-in on Kawhi when your squad is in shambles.

      • I find it weird that Kahwi wanted another star(s) to be with him, but Anthony Davis and LeBron weren’t the right Stars?

  10. specialfriedrice

    The wait was worth it, a good decision the NBA is so wide open now, I love it!

  11. Theone23

    Can’t believe he didn’t return to Toronto. How do you not run it back with a championship squad? Bad move by kawhi imo. Toronto will still be a top 3 seed in the East next year.

  12. formerlyz

    After the hectic Paul George trade situation, I looked at the Kawhi Leonard signing from the Clippers perspective…For Toronto, they end up with what I talked about when they originally made the trade for Kawhi, and that is a chance to rebuild with their young guys, even though they gave up a couple of pieces in the Marc Gasol trade. It was always a win-win scenario that gave them their first ever legit chance at a championship, and they ended up taking full advantage by winning. Getting rid of DeRozan’s contract allows them to start over and rebuild around Siakm, Anunoby, Powell, and Van Vleet, once Lowry, Gasol, and Ibaka expire after next season. They could try to plug something in around the pieces they have in place, as they’re still really good, but it may make more sense to try to recoup a couple of assets by looking to trade from those guys, or possibly just let it play out, and go into next offseason with flexibility. Regardless, I dont entirely see this as a loss for them. They won a championship. Thats literally all that matters, and they have pieces in place that gives them a really nice start to letting that city, and that country, grow once again with a new set of players, this time with championship culture behind them the whole way.

  13. Tazza

    Clippers surely offer Cousins some decent money 2 years 12 mill. And bring back Zubac and Green

    Start the season
    1. Beverly. Shamet
    2. PG. Williams. Robinson
    3. Leonard. Harkless. McGruder
    4. Green. Harrell Kabangele
    5. Cousins Zubac

    Beverly a elite defender, PG top 3 DPOTY, Leonard former DPOTY, Green better than average defender and Cousins. On Offense 1-5 can shoot the ball and spread the floor. Will still have 2 of the 3 finalists and the winner of 6th man of the year to come of the bench to go with Harkless, a former lead the league in 3 point % player. Not to mention young guns Shamet, Robinson, Zubac and Kagabengele.

  14. burtgummer

    The Lakers and the Raptors have the worst fans in pro sports.This was perfect

    • Thuggababyy

      How are raptors fans worse than Celtics, patriots, Yankees or Red Sox fans? Did they beat your team ?

          • burtgummer

            No not at all I don’t live anywhere near Boston I live near Charlotte NC
            Wasn’t even a good attempt to try to stir something up
            And you proved my point about Raptor fans
            You’re nothing but an ignorant little kid who thinks the world owes them everything

            • Natergater77

              So I’m far from Toronto, actually Dallas.

              And besides Drake I don’t see their fans as bad as Pat fans. I can also say Cowboy fans are more annoying. 23 years and still call themselves ‘America’s Team’

              Point being Raptors are a good organization, better management and better fans then LAL. Not sure why he ever considered that Buss mess.

              • fun guy

                He did not consider them at all, the Lakers were played. He would never sign with them given the injury mess, lebron and everything else. kawhi string them along so that they did not sign a 3rd star

              • fun guy

                No way we take wiggins contract. We want guys that play hard. Rebuild starts with Siakm

    • fun guy

      Raps have best fans in the nba. Did you not see the parade or any of their games? Players love it

  15. Fearthebeard

    I am so happy. Kd went where I wanted and now kawhi and to finish me off he brought pg literally 3 of my fav players where I want.
    Giannis and harden still doing their thing. I’m soooo satisfied and it’s soooo glorious to see the clippers outdo the lakers!

  16. Lefty_Orioles_Fan

    The NBA has become too much like the WWE
    I swear almost every trade, every signing is fixed!
    This signing is straight out of Vince McMahon land!

  17. jmac2121

    Damn, crushing loss as a Raptors fan…well, time to start the Giannis recruiting for 2021!

    • jmac2121

      Happy for the Clippers though…Leonard and George coming to take the thrown in LA

      • Yeah but you guys got over the hump this year. Tremendous accomplishment. You got out of the DeRozan Lowry backcourt problem. Big contracts, can’t close a ball game, Good Guys hard players tough, they’ll get you 25, but when it matters they can’t get you two.

        I’m a Warriors fan and a Red Sox fan since the 80s. Ruff ruff years both my teams. And the Sox started winning and it made up for all the excruciating terrible decades. Same with my Warriors. They were the joke of the NBA for how many years? Getting over the hump makes it all worth it.

        Happy for Toronto. If they do it right they’ll be back. Great coaching, good players, well-built team.

  18. hoosierhysteria

    East is wide open. Toronto moves down…Pacers move up. Throw the Knicks a bone…Russ to NYC.

  19. Tazza

    Toronto should trade Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell for Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague. Toronto gets a former number 1 pick in Wiggins, he’s also from Canada so it’s a homecoming to start the rebuild. Teague is on an expiring deal and can share point guard duties with Fred van Vleet. Timberwolves get an improvement at Point Guard, in Lowry who can be a veteran leader for the team. He is on an expiring deal also but you would look to retain him for a cheaper deal when it expires. He can space the floor, create for others and is decent on defense. Norman Powell makes the deal work salary wise plus he plays SF like Wiggins, so he can just move into a back up role behind Covington which he is alright at.

  20. Derickj86

    New York and now LA are seeing the “lesser” team steal their thunder… see what I did there ;)

  21. Jordan

    Wow great move for the clippers. However the clippers are the clippers and will find a way to screw this up. They will always be second fiddle to the lake show.

    • Nope not this time.

      Different owner then the guy they had for 35 years. Plus Jerry West doesn’t screw anything up. Midas Touch.

  22. ::starts slow clap:: ::starts JER-RY JER-RY chant::

    I mean seriously, go through his GM history just as a Laker and he’s in the HOF. But the dude makes things happen.

  23. madmanTX

    Now the best team in LA. By a wide margin. Didn’t the Lakers used to be a good team once?

    • goldenmisfit

      The two biggest head cases on the clippers and you think they are the best team in LA? LOL knowing you know nothing about basketball.

      • Dodgethis

        Uh LeBron and Davis have them beat, as the definite head cases. How was LeBron first year in LA while he was busy in Hollywood? Davis needs to shave his forehead, and let’s not forget he forced his way out of NOLA

  24. whoneedsfacts

    Definitely made the Clips a top three team. The NBA is looking a lot more competitive going forward, that’s good for the league.

  25. Dodgethis

    Wow. Both LA teams went from afterthought to 2 headed Dragon each headed by 2 if the top players in the league. Not sure how Alexander will play with Westbrook, but thunder wernt winning anything with George. While I feel for the raptors losing 2 key guys, it wouldn’t matter if you lost your entire team, you won your franchises only championship, anything is 100% worth it.

  26. Jmac2020

    So he only signs a 2 + 1 essentially and if he doesnt win he will surely leave. That okc deal is looking better and better.

    • JonnyLucas

      If I had his kind of leverage, I would also leave myself the option of entering free agency as often as possible.

  27. Ironmonger835

    Wants to be a free agent with 10 years so he can get an even bigger deal.

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