In the 2019-2020 season, Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers were supposed to make a transition to being a championship team, getting Leonard his 3rd ring, and putting him in the conversation for the best player in the world. Instead, the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets and exited in the 2nd round.
For a team with championship aspirations, that was a disappointing end to the season. In Game 7, the whole Clippers team did poorly including Kawhi Leonard. Paul George wasn’t good to close out the series in the last few games, and there is a notable video of him hitting the side of the backboard from the 3 point line.
In 2018-2019, Paul George was an MVP candidate on a good OKC team. Paul George could still be that guy for the right team. The Clippers needed to change something, and they already fired Doc Rivers. Paul George could be the next domino to fall. There were rumors of Steve Ballmer willing to trade anyone and everyone after the series loss to the Nuggets, so don’t be surprised if the Clippers swing big to try and build a contender around Kawhi Leonard.
Here are some possible trades for Paul George so that the Clippers can retool and build a roster that can defeat the juggernauts of the Western Conference.
1. Brooklyn Nets
Trade Package: Paul George for Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, and Taurean Prince
Is this offer from the Nets an overpay? Perhaps, but the Nets are going to get Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant back next season. If Paul George plays at an All-NBA level, then he could be a great two-way presence next to the other two stars. If the Nets are deadset on assembling a superteam in the East, then George could be the missing piece. If he goes to the Nets he will have even less pressure on him as a third option, George wouldn’t have to dominate to win as he would be playing with two other stars, who can both create for themselves.
For the Clippers, this is as much a win-now move as a future move. Spencer Dinwiddie has been a little forgotten since he didn’t participate in the bubble, but he is a bonafide scorer and playmaker. Dinwiddie averaged 6.8 APG this season, and the one thing noted by a lot of people is that the Clippers lacked cohesion and playmaking. He could either be a high minutes sixth man or a starter: what matters more is that he would replace the scoring that George would bring, and he and Lou Williams would be a great scoring duo off the bench. His role throughout the season would be flexible according to the team’s needs.
Caris LeVert is also a great player who can play either SG or SF. He has shown to have a great midrange with an average catch and shoot game. Next to Kawhi Leonard, he will have to learn how to be less ball-dominant and to play as a 2nd fiddle, rather than getting the freedom that he’s gotten used to on the Nets. Taurean Prince is a player who can play the SF or the PF and is a solid 3 and D player with some room for growth. This package from the Nets combines a win now package and future prospects for the Clippers. Not the worst return for Paul George at all.
2. Houston Rockets
Trade Package: Paul George and Patrick Beverley for Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon
During his 2019 Championship, Kawhi Leonard got used to playing with a good point guard in Kyle Lowry. This trade for Westbrook seeks to join Kawhi with a similar player, who also happens to be a perennial All-NBA selection. Russell Westbrook at the very least would bring some dynamism to the Clippers offense with his athleticism and playmaking. Russell Westbrook had a bad bubble but was also coming off a quad injury and one of the best years of his career. Perhaps Westbrook’s playmaking can unlock the rest of the roster’s abilities. Westbrook made the Finals with Kevin Durant: he can do it with Leonard.
In terms of the rest of the trade, Eric Gordon is a shooter. Contending teams are always in search of good shooters. Gordon had some moments in the playoffs where he showed us that he isn’t completely done after his injuries, and as he’s used to playing with James Harden, playing with other ball-dominant stars shouldn’t be an issue. For the Rockets, Beverley brings good perimeter defense and floor spacing. Paul George in Houston would be interesting, as Harden hadn’t played with a two-way wing since the days of Kevin Durant. George would bring a new look to the Rockets and fit into any offense they decide to run as a two-way shooting wing.
3. Chicago Bulls
Trade Package: Paul George for Zach LaVine and Thaddeus Young
By trading a lot of their future picks to originally get Paul George, the Clippers have dug themselves into a hole. They need to make moves to win now but also look towards the future. This could be a move that embodies that sentiment. Paul George going to the Bulls could be interesting: they get a year to convince an All-Star that he should stay. If they play well, George would probably re-sign; if they play poorly they could get a top pick for their troubles. The 2021 draft class is full of high-level prospects, so this move should work out for the Bulls either way. Giving up LaVine hurts, but risks don’t pay off if you don’t take them.
Zach LaVine would step into George’s role on the Clippers, creating his shot as a secondary option behind Kawhi Leonard. LaVine brings youth and athleticism to a veteran loaded roster and allows the Clippers flexibility if Leonard leaves in free agency. LaVine would be a good move from an offensive standpoint, injecting some new blood into a stagnant Clippers offense. Thaddeus Young would be a better fit in the starting lineup than Marcus Morris, Young would be less of a ball stopper on the offensive end, and offer great interior defense on the other end.
4. Sacramento Kings
Trade Package: Paul George for Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes
Buddy Hield was the winner of the 3PT contest and a rising star not too long ago. He signed a big-money contract with the Kings and was supposed to be De’Aaron Fox’s running mate for the next few years. However, due to his defense, he was benched by Luke Walton. Despite that, his offensive potential can still be realized. His game is based around his scorching 3PT shooting, and shooting ability of the dribble. Harrison Barnes could be an upgrade at the PF position and bring tertiary scoring, similar to his days in Golden State.
Paul George would allow the Kings to pair Fox with a legitimate All-NBA player. Sometimes contending can’t wait, and a team has to go with a roster upgrade. Paul George would be a good fit for a player like Fox since George can play well off-ball. The Kings would be a surprising team in the West: they almost made the playoffs before Luke Walton came to town. In this scenario, the Kings would make a move to try and make the playoffs, rather than be stuck in eternal mediocrity. In making a move for Paul George they would attempt to break their spell of not making the playoffs and bring excitement to Sacramento.
5. Denver Nuggets
Trade Package: Paul George for Gary Harris, Will Barton, Monte Morris (Team Option) and 2020 first-round pick
The one thing about the Nuggets is that they have a lot of guys who need playing time. They already traded Malik Beasley away to the Timberwolves earlier in the season. Despite that, the list of players who are good and need playing time is still long. Gary Harris and Monte Morris are both too talented to play limited minutes. On the Clippers, they would definitely get more playing time: it would be obvious that the Clippers would make moves this offseason, and if Harris and Morris were to move to the Clippers, one would bet that they would both start at the guard positions. Morris brings more offensive upside than Patrick Beverley, and Harris would be a lock to take George’s position himself.
The other parts of this trade are also valuable to the Clippers. Will Barton brings floor spacing and scoring, while the #22 pick can be used to pick a bench big-man to complement Ivica Zubac (Montrezl Harrell is probably gone). This seems like a solid move for the Clippers to once again have some future prospects, while also providing Kawhi Leonard with a competitive team. Rather than being a one-two punch with George, this iteration of the team would have a more heliocentric offense. Leonard would handle the majority of the scoring, with everyone else chipping in when they have it going, similar to the 2019 Raptors team.
The Nuggets take this trade to add Paul George to their team and make a big 3 while fixing their headache of having too many good players but not many amazing players. George would allow the Nuggets to compete in the West, plain and simple. A 3rd star, when combined with rotational pieces like Michael Porter Jr. and Jerami Grant seems like a recipe for a contender. The Clippers would take the ability to field a more spread out offense in exchange for an underperforming star, and the Nuggets would do the trade for George’s presumed upside.