The Los Angeles Clippers believe they have good odds to sign top free agent Kawhi Leonard this offseason after trading away Tobias Harris.
The franchise had shifted their marketing from Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to Harris, who was the best player on the team since he landed in Los Angeles. The 6-foot-8 forward was enjoying a season that had him in All-Star consideration, too, if he weren’t in the stacked Western Conference.
But the Clippers deserve credit for savvy management that has allowed them to be in a position to add Leonard. It was clear that the team did not view Paul or Griffin as part of their plans moving forward. And rather than letting either of them walk via free agency, they stockpiled assets without bottoming out and disappointing fans.
After trading away Paul and Griffin, the team stayed competitive with enjoyable players including Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Avery Bradley as well as Harris and Boban Marjanovic. While they no longer have either Harris or Marjonovic, they were able to pull in future first-rounders as well a lottery pick from 2018.
Their pick owed to Boston is lottery protected, too, which means they’ll likely keep their pick this offseason. That means they will likely have four first-rounders over the next four seasons.
Now with surplus money to spend, too, they should be considered the favorites to sign Leonard. It is far from a foregone conclusion he leaves the Raptors but Marc Stein suggested the Clippers are comfortable with the odds (via New York Times):
“But I will say that a genuine confidence about their Kawhi chances emanates from the Clippers every time I’m around them. They obviously can’t say it for public consumption, but the sense I get is that the Clippers see themselves as the favorites for Leonard. The Clippers’ belief on this front has convinced me, at the very least, that the Toronto Raptors have to treat the Lakers’ Staples Center co-tenants as their most worthy threat in the Kawhi Sweepstakes. And I’d say they do.”
Stein doubled down this reporting on a podcast appearance with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith the day before the trade deadline. It’s clear that L.A. maintains this position, or they wouldn’t have traded Harris.
They already have promising young guards on their roster in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerome Robinson and Landry Shamet. During the process, they did not take back any bad long-term money. This offseason, the Clippers can create up to $57.3 million in cap space.
That would be more than enough to sign Leonard and another marque player like Jimmy Butler or even Kevin Durant.
Most shocking is that they can clear an additional $32 million if they move Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams, who would both be valuable additions for a contending team.
Still dreaming big, they could use those two players as a trade chip to land another valuable piece that fits better with a core based around Leonard. Or better yet, they view Gallinari (who has been a revelation all year now that he is finally healthy) and Williams as nice complementary pieces for a team that has Leonard.
DunkWire, Avery Bradley, Blake Griffin, Boban Marjanovic, Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, Jerome Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Landry Shamet, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverley, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tobias Harris, L.A. Clippers, Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto Raptors