The Los Angeles Clippers' first order was business was to agree on a new contract with head coach Tyronn Lue. Now that that's done, the contracts of Paul George and James Harden are next.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, ‘the Clippers are determined to keep Paul George and James Harden in free agency.'

As the Clippers should. Despite the recent criticism's from this reporter, the Clippers have no real avenue to improve or replace those players should they elect to walk in free agency. Re-signing George and Harden are now priorities No. 1 and 2 for the Clippers, who will have to continue to construct the roster around those two and Kawhi Leonard.

James Harden

Harden is an unrestricted free agent this summer after being traded to Los Angeles in November. The Clippers traded away a number of role players in addition to their 2028 first round pick and a 2029 first round pick swap. They didn't do all that just to let Harden walk in free agency.

The Clippers were ecstatic about the returns of adding Harden to the team, providing them with much needed three-level scoring and elite playmaking. The two sides expect to continue their partnership and agree on a deal this summer, but it will be interesting to see what kind of deal Harden is offered and eventually signs once free agency begins.

“[Continuity] is the only way you really have a chance to be the last team standing,” James Harden said after the team's season-ending loss to the Mavs. “Look at a team like Denver, which as been together for some years and they get in moments like these in the playoffs, they know where each other is gonna be. They trust, have faith, they execute. They know where each other's gonna be. That's a huge part of being one of the last team's standing, so you need that to be a really good team.”

In 72 appearances for the LA Clippers this past season, James Harden averaged 16.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 8.5 assists, and 1.1 steals per game on 42.8 percent shooting from the field and 38.1 percent from beyond the three-point arc.

Paul George

Paul George reportedly has a number of suitors interested in him this offseason, including the Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic. That Clippers have been unwilling to give George the contract he's desired, which is why the extension hasn't gotten done to this point.

Kawhi Leonard agreed to a three year, $150 million extension in January, which essentially set the bar for a potential deal for George. Both he and Leonard were eligible for four-year, $220 million max extensions, but Leonard elected to take a paycut with one fewer year. It's hard to imagine the Clippers giving George more than they gave the best player on their team.

At the same time, if there is a team willing to pay George the contract he desires, he has a legitimate reason to request that here or take the payday elsewhere. Professional athletes careers end by the time they're in their late 30's. At 34 years of age, this is likely the last big contract for Paul George and he should want to cash in as much as he can before he calls it a career.

“Every deal has to work for both sides,” Lawrence Frank said in his end-of-season press conference. “And I think we got to a point where we just said, ‘you know what? We can continue the conversations but let's just table it until the end of the year. So I anticipate that we'll pick up conversations. Everything's been on a very, I'd say cooperative and collaborative measure and he can sign his extension up until July 1st and then he can also test free agency and we're hopeful that we can still bring him back.”

As we've previously reported, sources said the Clippers had been unwilling to offer George the max contract he wanted and were not offering the fourth year in the deal either. In an ideal world, Harden and George both take three-year deals to align themselves with Kawhi Leonard's three year deal.

George has until late June to decide on his player option and the Clippers have until the June 30th to agree to an extension with George.

In 74 appearances for the Clippers, Paul George averaged 22.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He shot career highs from the field (47.1 percent), from three, (41.3 percent) and from the free throw line (90.7 percent)