The Los Angeles Clippers made quite the noise in this past offseason with a huge signing and trade. In one fell swoop, they went from a young rambunctious team that pushed the Golden State Warriors to 6 games, to legitimate contenders in a lodes Western Conference.
In the wee hours of the morning, it was reported that the Clippers acquired Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and a gluttony of future first-round draft picks (as a Thunder fan thanks for that by the way). It later came out that this deal was nothing more than a string, a string being pulled by none other than free agent Kawhi Leonard. The deal was simple, if you trade for Paul George I will sign with you. If you do not trade for Paul George then I will sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. And then Kawhi metaphorically stared into their souls and dared them to blink (Narrator: “They blinked”).
Another team that ironically made a trade with the Thunder was the Houston Rockets. Not long after the Paul George trade, Russell Westbrook was traded to the Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul and a handful of future first-round picks (thanks for that too). Reuniting the former Thunder teammates and MVPs in Russ and James Harden pushing them into conversations of contention as well.
Sadly (for them anyway), despite making this blockbuster, “win now” moves the Clippers and Rockets alike failed to meet their lofty postseason expectations. Actually, they both only made it one round further into the playoffs than the Thunder did, which when you think about is pretty insane.
Fingers have been pointed in every direction on both sides, but the common denominator seems to be the former Thunder stars; PG and Russ.
Just for fun, I looked into each teams needs and why what they had just didn’t seem to work. Upon my research, and trying to flip different guys here and there, the most simple solution came to my mind.
Just switch Paul George and Russell Westbrook.
Before you come at me sideways talking about how Kawhi hand-picked PG (not his first choice though, mind you) and Harden lobbied for the front office to trade for Russ, just hear me out. I think you’ll understand where I’m coming from, and you might even agree with me.
First off, let me explain to you why each team would welcome the swap.
If you look back at Kawhi Leonard’s rings, no doubt he played lights out. He was a clutch. He rose to the occasion over and over again on both sides of the ball. But, there was a common theme in each finals fun for the Klaw; he had a high-quality point guard.
Say what you want about Tony Parker or Kyle Lowry but the bottom line is they were integral pieces bringing the ball up the floor. If you look at the Clippers this last year, Kawhi and PG were relied upon for just about everything offensively. Sure they had Lou Williams get buckets off the bench, they had Patrick Beverley lock in defensively and run his mouth all game long, but they didn’t have a playmaker that could create shots for both himself and his teammates to alleviate some of the offensive burdens from his massive shoulders.
Russell Westbrook has his thorns, despite my massive fandom I will admit that. But Russ can shoulder a load offensively when they offense is sputtering, he can create for his teammates, he plays at 1000%, has one of the strongest wills to win in the league, and he is something that Kawhi has never been, and probably will never be. He is a (very) vocal leader.
On the flip side, The Rockets are a team that lives and dies by the 3. So much so, that they traded away their center Clint Capela to create spacing for the guards Russ and Harden to drive and kick to shooters for open looks. That’s great and all until you realize that your 2nd best player kinda sorta can’t consistently shoot 3’s. For everything that Russ is, he is not a 3 point shooter. And for everything Paul George lacks, he definitely doesn’t lack a 3 point shot.
The Rockets proved that they could be effective with two high usage scorers before (twice actually), adding one at the wing position that can spread the floor, consistently contribute, and impact the game on both ends of the floor could give Harden something he has never had to work with before.
Ok, so we agree the Clippers could use Russ and the Rockets could use PG. So, what about the other guys?
Well first off, Patrick Beverly just has to go. Russ and Pat Bev have a lengthy history and bringing them together in the locker room is probably not the best idea. It clears up the point guard spot that Russ would no doubt inherit, and it reunites Pat Bev with the team that took a chance on him, to begin with. It gives Houston another insufferable hard-nosed defender to go alongside PJ Tucker, and he can also hit open 3’s. Yay for checking boxes.
As for Robert Covington, you might think this is a deal-breaker for the Rockets. But the RoCo and PG are both great defenders. PG can give you more offensively, so the Rockets won’t mind. And he fits the Clippers scheme much better in that he doesn’t demand the ball to be effective, and can still space the floor for their new point guard in Russ.
As you can see, it does make some sense for both teams to pull the trigger on a deal like this. In addition, to fit on the floor, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is LOADED and might be one of the few GM’s willing to pay for Russell Westbrook’s voluptuous contract. Paul George could be a free agent next season, so if it doesn’t work out the blow it all up option is still on the floor for Houston.
Overall though, I think this could be a mutually beneficial deal for both teams. You could swap the tertiary pieces around, and still, keep the trade intact. I would love to see this deal be made personally, as it would add a lot of intrigue in the West. That, and if it doesn’t work out again we (by we I mean the Thunder) have all of their future picks.
What do you think? Think Russ could be the perfect ying to Kawhi’s yang? Think PG and Harden could dominate the game offensively?
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