Clippers Tried to Pair James Harden With Kawhi Leonard

Liam McKeone

The Los Angeles Clippers were the undisputed (and quite unexpected) winners of free agency this year, landing Paul George in a blockbuster trade and pairing him with prized free agent Kawhi Leonard. In an NBA dominated by wing players, this is as good of a combo we’ve ever seen in terms of impact on both ends of the floor.

But George wasn’t the Clippers’ initial target. According to some quality reporting coming from this Athletic article, the Clippers explored many possible avenues for a superstar to pair with Leonard. One of those options? James Harden. From the piece:

As the Clippers surveyed the NBA scene, it wasn’t yet clear whom they could pair with the 2019 Finals MVP. They analyzed and studied every roster and star player in the league, attempting to find out who would best fit alongside Leonard, both on the hardwood and from a personality standpoint.

The Clippers inquired about Washington’s Bradley Beal and Houston’s James Harden, according to league sources, but neither star was available.

Either Beal or Harden would have a great pairing with Leonard, albeit not as good as his present running partner in George. Harden would have been especially fun to watch; pairing an all-time great offensive player with an all-time great defensive player and watch them cover each other’s weaknesses would have been a treat.

From the sound of it, about a half-dozen different conclusions could have come from the Clippers’ efforts to pair Leonard with a star. Leonard himself reached out toKevin Durant and expressed interest in teaming up with Jimmy Butler, while the Clips asked around about Harden and Beal. We may never see this level of player movement in one summer again. Next year should be a blast.