The Los Angeles Clippers are heading into a very important offseason. Last year’s additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were supposed to the turn the team into a championship contender. They did not. Instead, the Clippers got bounced in disappointing fashion from the second round of the playoffs by the Denver Nuggets.
Head coach Doc Rivers, who players didn’t really respect, was the first domino to drop. He was asked not to return and promptly got replaced by Ty Lue. Now the question is: what’s the next step? This week, Shaquille O’Neal argued that it is trading away George.
“You gotta use [George] to get two good solid players because I need Kawhi [Leonard] to be the man,” he said. “See Kawhi, I don’t want Kawhi to delegate. See, when Kawhi was with Toronto he knew he was the man, everybody knew he was the man. Now you got one guy that thinks he’s the man, one guy that is the man.”
O’Neal is not alone in that assessment. During a recent conversation with The Athletic, one NBA agent suggested that there are rumblings of the Clippers possibly making some big changes.
“I heard (the Clippers are) going to break that roster up,” he said.
Several weeks back, Jovan Buha of The Athletic confirmed that Clippers management did not see George as “untouchable” in the way Leonard is. “I think Leonard is the only untouchable on the roster,” he wrote. “George is close to untouchable, but I think the Clippers would move him for the right package – and, obviously, if that was Leonard’s preferred outcome.”
Jason McIntyre of Fox Sports alluded to something similar when he reported that “at the exit interviews, Paul George didn’t get ‘rave reviews’ from his teammates.”
Championship coaches do championship things. https://t.co/Rt7179e8TK
— Game 7 (@game7__) October 22, 2020
It goes without saying that George’s first year with the Clippers could have gone smoother. The 30-year-old missed offseason workouts, training camp, preseason and first 11 games of the regular season, and that lack of time with team showed itself in the Clippers’ poor chemistry.
George famously bumped heads with Montrezl Harrell. His attempts to give his teammates motivational speeches were met with “eye rolls and bewilderment.” Leonard’s trainer very publicly ridiculed him and his basketball IQ, likely speaking for the Clippers’ best player in some capacity. It wasn’t a great inaugural campaign.
With all that being said, George still has a ton of value on the trade market. He is a very good player, all chemistry issues notwithstanding. This past year he shot a career high 41.2 percent from three during the regular season, while also averaging 21.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per outing. Defensively, although he looked a little less loose than in prior years, he was still the team’s top on-ball defender.
Things are getting interesting. https://t.co/Z1NGIa3EQe
— Game 7 (@game7__) October 22, 2020
George is heading into the second year of a potentially three-year deal with the Clippers. He will make $35.4 million in 2020-21 and has an option for $37.9 million in 2021-22. If LA is not confident in his abilities to help lead the team to a title, then moving him might make sense.
The Brooklyn Nets have been mentioned as a potential destination, as have the New York Knicks. There has also been some loose chatter about the Philadelphia 76ers or Washington Wizards making some sort of move, but so far the whispers haven’t turned into anything more.
At this point, it feels like the Clippers will ride it out with George for one more season and then see where things stand at the end of next year. If they come close to winning a championship, then obviously all this talk will be forgotten. If they don’t – well then expect the trade rumors to heat up once more.