The wait is over. After countless rumors, helicopter chases and a whole lot of silence, Kawhi Leonard has signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. The reported deal is for three years and $103 million. The contract structure has the third year as a player option. This is kind of a big deal because it had been originally reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that the deal was for four years, $142 million — the max contract for Leonard.
Because of the signing of Leonard along with the shocking addition of former Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, the Clippers now project as the to win the 2020 NBA Finals — ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers. The Clippers acquired George in exchange for a number of draft picks, along with forward Danilo Gallinari and second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the trade deal that happened over the weekend.
There had reportedly been discontent brewing between George and former MVP Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, and when Leonard pushed George to make the move to the Clippers, he reportedly formally requested a trade.
The way that Leonard and George’s contracts are set up will allow both players to enter free agency in 2021 — when both of their contracts can run out.
The Raptors had acquired Leonard last season in a blockbuster deal, and Masai Ujiri’s big risk paid off with the first title in franchise history. Leonard was spectacular on both ends of the floor in the postseason, and hit one of the most famous shots in NBA history with his series-winning buzzer beater in Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round.
However, the trade for Leonard also came with the caveat that he could leave after just one year with the franchise. The Clippers had long been rumored as the favorite destination for Leonard, even back when he was still a member of the San Antonio Spurs. Although those rumors had cooled down leading into the NBA offseason — with the Lakers and Raptors emerging as serious threats — those long-standing rumors ended up being true as the Finals MVP decided to sign with the Clippers.
With a couple of the top two-way players in the league leading the way, the NBA title could very well run through the Clippers next season.