It was nearly 1 AM in Oklahoma when the NBA world was presented with the news that it had been waiting for: Kawhi Leonard had chosen the Clippers.
Not only two minutes later we found out why… The Thunder had traded All-Star and MVP Candidate, Paul George, to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Thunder will receive a MASSIVE haul in return for PG. The Clippers send Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, four unprotected first-round picks, one protected first-round pick and two pick swaps. (Via Sam Amick, the pick swaps are reportedly also unprotected.)
The shocking trade apparently developed over the last few days as Kawhi recruited PG to join him in LA. Oklahoma City’s previous free-agency moves (Muscala, Burks, Noel) suggest that the plan as of earlier in the week was to run it back and try to contend. Saturday night’s move has likely signaled the end of that plan.
The initial shock will take a while to wear off. For the Thunder, most signs point to a rebuild. They get a haul they probably wouldn’t have found anywhere else. A massive, massive consolation prize to losing an MVP-caliber player.
There will now be an obvious elephant in the room: Is the Russell Westbrook/OKC era also over?
One would have to assume that a Westbrook trade is now firmly in play. With Oklahoma City looking towards the future and Russell Westbrook inching close to the end of his prime, the two sides might find it best to separate. (Yes, the idea of a Russell Westbrook-less Oklahoma City makes me sick. )
That being said, I wouldn’t be so sure that’s the route the Thunder go initially. Oklahoma City is not without talent and/or trade assets. Early offseason rumbles spoke of Steven Adams being used as trade bait, and now with a plethora of picks to offer, could the Thunder look to just fill in the gap that Paul George left?
Is another trade possible? Who knows. Does a mixture of picks + player(s) land Bradley Beal? Who knows. Is Russell Westbrook in a Thunder jersey to start the season. Who knows. I certainly didn’t know the Thunder would ever consider trading Paul George… I’m not sure anyone did.