The Los Angeles Clippers are living the dream after the acquisitions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this off-season. The excitement was obvious during the introductory press conference for the two all-star forwards. Owner Steve Balmer looked like a six-year old on Christmas morning, clapping and yelling as much as he could. The feel in the organization is real: this is a championship contending team.
The battle for Los Angeles is underway. The Los Angeles Lakers traded their young assets and multiple first-round draft picks to the New Orleans Pelicans for superstar big man Anthony Davis. After that move, the Lakers were rumored to be the front-runners to land Leonard. While waiting for Leonard’s decision, the Lakers missed out on other free agents during the first week of free agency.
The plan backfired when Leonard made the shocking decision to sign with the Clippers instead, bringing George with him. When Leonard announced his choice, the Lakers scrambled, signing Danny Green, Troy Daniels, Avery Bradley, Quinn Cook, Jared Dudley and DeMarcus Cousins immediately afterwards.
The Clippers are in a better standing than the Lakers, even if the Lakers main duo is better than the Clippers main duo. The Clippers have a reliable supporting cast around Leonard and George, one that made the playoffs last year before acquiring the duo.
Both teams will use load management with their star players. LeBron James is entering his 17th season and the days of him playing at least 75 games are over, especially after last seasons groin injury. Leonard comes from a load management culture, first with the San Antonio Spurs and then with the Toronto Raptors. It’s more realistic that he plays around 66 games. George is coming off multiple shoulder surgeries this off-season, so the Clippers will treat him delicately. Watch for George to not play back-to-backs either.
The difference is the Clippers have a supporting cast that made the playoffs and competed against the Golden State Warriors. The Lou Williams- Montrezl Harrell pick-and-roll was virtually unstoppable last season. Harrell proved to be a promising young big man, while Williams showed near all-star capabilities while coming off the bench. Pat Beverley is a defensive stud who can guard the premier guards, decreasing what Leonard and George have to do defensively. Combine all of this with multiple three-point shooters and this is a team who leads the way in championship aspirations.
It’s no coincidence that an earthquake occurred the same night Leonard made his decision. It rocked the NBA and changed history forever. Add this entire free agency to the Mount Rushmore of free agencies.