The Los Angeles Clippers and Paul George are in shambles. Their humiliating series defeat to the Denver Nuggets in the second round was shattering. The fact that they blew a 3-1 series lead to a relatively inexperienced Nuggets side just made things a lot, lot worse.
Some major changes a re brewing within the Clippers in what has become an even more important offseason for the franchise. Will this come in the form of LA breaking up the core they formed just last summer? Is it now time to pull the plug on the Kawhi Leonard-Paul George partnership, which has only had one season to really show its worth? Probably not.
However, we’ve seen crazier things in the past. The Clippers front office are in a frenzy, and it would not be surprising if they start panicking at this point. Trading away Kawhi Leonard — one of the best players in the NBA today — is out of the question. If anything, the untouchable status ends with him. Between him and George, it is the latter that would be more dispensable for LA.
George is a great two-way player — certainly one of the best in the business today. However, his fit with Kawhi has now been put into question. Hi terrible showing in the playoffs, which earned him the unfortunate nickname “Pandemic P,” did not help his cause. Finally, he has two years remaining on his current deal, with a player option for the 2021-22 campaign. As such, the Clippers would need to offer him an extension sooner rather than later, unless they want to run the risk of having him walk next summer.
Despite all this, a Paul George trade seems unlikely at this point. The Clippers will likely give it another go next season. However, in the case that they actually try to move George, they have a number of options available for them.
1. Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder Chris Paul just had one of the best seasons of his career last term, as he led his team to a great campaign. He has emerged as one of the hottest names in the trade market, and since he had some of his best years in LA, a reunion with the Clippers might just work.
Aside from the narrative, Paul fills a significant requirement LA needs right now — a legitimate playmaking point guard. In this respect, Paul still remains to be one of the best in the league, despite turning 36 next term.
George will likewise return to a team that he spent two outstanding seasons with. At 30, he still has several prime years ahead of him, and he could serve as the Thunder’s superstar veteran, playing alongside a young team that will be looking to contend in the next few years.
The Clippers will likely need to throw in a guy like Landry Shamet to make the financials work.
2. Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons
Since we’re on the subject of reunions, how about a triumphant return for Blake Griffin in LA? He’s already 31, and his Lob City days are past him. He also seems to be perpetually injured, but when healthy, he’s still an outstanding power forward.
Griffin played just 18 games this season, but he actually had one of the best seasons of his career during the 2018-19 campaign. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists in 75 games, which earned him a spot in the All-Star Squad for the first time in three years.
Perhaps most importantly for LA, Griffin drained a career-best 2.5 triples per game on a 36.2-percent clip that season. He transitioned his game from an above-the-rim extraordinaire, to a legitimate threat from deep. The Clippers clearly need a floor-spacing big, and Griffin certainly fits that bill.
As for Detroit, they would be on their way to a rebuild should they part ways with Griffin, and similar to how George would fit in with the Thunder, he could play a similar role for a young Pistons squad.
3. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
The Clippers lack height. Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic made sure to expose that weakness, as an inexperienced Ivica Zubac and an undersized Montrezl Harrell struggled to contain Jokic in the second round.
If the Clippers want to bring in a traditional big, then they could do much worse than Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert.
Reports state that Gobert has already buried the hatchet with Donovan Mitchell, and that they’ve put their COVID-19 episode behind them. Nevertheless, the damage has been done, and Utah might still be inclined to trade away Gobert.
Should the Jazz opt to take this route, then they will have no shortage of suitors for Gobert. Some offers might provide a much better fit as compared to bringing in George to the team, but it’s not everyday you get a chance to sign a six-time All-Star and a five-time All-NBA player to your squad. Utah will likely need to add another piece in the deal to make the numbers work.
For the Clippers, Gobert provides a true option for them at the five. He is a former two-time Defensive Player of the Year winner, and it instantly upgrades LA’s already formidable defense. The Frenchman might just be the missing piece this team requires to take the next step.