After guiding the Toronto Raptors to their first championship in franchise history, Kawhi Leonard was the most sought-after free agent in the summer of 2019. He met with the Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Clippers and wound up signing a three-year, $103.1 million contract with the Clippers after convincing Paul George to request a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder to join him.
With Leonard and George leading the way, the Clippers won 49 games in 2019-20 and looked primed to reach the NBA Finals for the first time. However, they choked in the second round of the 2020 playoffs in classic LAC fashion by blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets.
The pressure was on the Clippers this season to make up for their choke job. They replaced Doc Rivers with Tyronn Lue and finally got Leonard and George a point guard in Rajon Rondo at the trade deadline. However, it appears nothing has changed in Clipper Land, as they are on the brink of getting embarrassed by the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2021 playoffs. Their demise could result in Leonard joining the Miami Heat in the offseason.
The Clippers are down 2-0 to the Mavericks
The Clippers are in deep trouble against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks. They lost both games at home and had zero answers for the 2018-19 Rookie of the Year. Whether it was Leonard, George, or Patrick Beverley guarding him, Doncic had his way against the Clippers in Games 1 and 2, averaging 35.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 9.0 assists.
If the Mavericks upset the Clippers, Leonard and George will once again be the laughingstock of NBA Twitter. Both All-Stars were bashed last postseason after failing to score in the fourth quarter of Game 7 against the Nuggets. George also embarrassed himself by hitting the side of the backboard on a 3-point attempt from the corner.
Leonard has a player option for next season, and many pundits believe he could decline it and sign with another team if the Clippers flame out again. Should that be the case, one NBA insider wouldn’t be surprised if he signs with the team LeBron James won two championships with.
Kawhi Leonard could sign with the Heat to play with Jimmy Butler
According to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, Leonard and Heat star Jimmy Butler have a close relationship, and the two-time Finals MVP could take his talents to South Beach in the summer if the Clippers don’t miraculously come back against the Mavericks and go on a deep postseason run.
Before Leonard recruited George in 2019, he reached out to Butler and Kevin Durant and asked them to join him on the Clippers since both guys were free agents. Durant, of course, signed with the Brooklyn Nets, while Butler went to the Heat.
George is one of the best two-way players in the NBA, but he has a history of shooting poorly in the playoffs. The Clippers may regret trading Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a plethora of draft picks to the Thunder to acquire George, especially if Leonard leaves town this offseason after just two years.
Kawhi Leonard should have signed with the Lakers or stayed with the Raptors
Leonard made a mistake signing with the Clippers and playing with George. He should have either signed with the Lakers and created a lethal Big 3 with LeBron and Anthony Davis or stayed with the Raptors.
The Clippers are a cursed franchise. They have never made it past the second round of the playoffs and can’t even beat the Mavericks despite getting 41 points from Leonard in Game 2. The former San Antonio Spurs forward has to seriously consider leaving this offseason in free agency and finding another partner in crime.
Butler, whose Heat are struggling as well, could be the perfect wingman for Leonard, and it helps that Miami is a warm city just like LA.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.