Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the Clippers Are Now on the Clock

Ryan Phillips
Sep 29, 2020, 7:59 AM EDT
Paul George and Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Los Angeles Clippers follow the game from the bench against Minnesota Timberwolves
Paul George and Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Los Angeles Clippers follow the game from the bench against Minnesota Timberwolves | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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The Los Angeles Clippers parted ways with Doc Rivers on Monday in a move that will have ripple effects across the NBA. Rivers has already received interest from other teams and the Clippers now have to replace a legendary coach who will need to appease two superstars, both of whom can opt out after next season. The franchise and its stars are officially on the clock.

Paul George signed a four-year, $136.9 million deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2018, but the fourth season is a player option for $37.9 million. By the time he was traded to the Clippers in the summer of 2019, he only had two guaranteed seasons left on his deal. Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard inked a three-year, $103.1 million deal with the Clippers in the summer of 2019, but the third year is a player option worth $36 million. That means both Leonard and George can bounce out of LA if the 2020-21 season goes south.

The Clippers need to find a way too make this work, with a top-flight coach and a roster that can compete for a title next season. With Montrezl Harrell hitting free agency, along with midseason pickups Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson, and rotation player Patrick Patterson, there are holes to fill. JaMychal Green can also opt out of his deal if he thinks there's more playing time available elsewhere.

The returning corps is still strong. Barring a trade, we know Leonard and George will be bolstered by Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly, Ivica Zubac, Rodney McGruder and Landry Shamet. There is almost certainly no help coming via the draft, as the Clippers only own the 57th pick this year. The team is also already over the salary cap, with $115.7 million in commitments against a cap projected to be at $109 million.

So where are the Clippers going to find help? With the potential defection of Harrell and a lack of assets to make moves, it's fair to think the 2019-20 season was their best shot at a title. Barring a major move, the team won't suddenly be more talented next season and key players will have all gotten a year older. Plus, the group will be led by a new coach who will be facing enormous pressure to deliver a title.

The franchise threw caution to the wind in 2019 in an attempt to break out of the shadow of the Los Angeles Lakers. They're building their own arena, made a huge splash by acquiring two superstars and surrounded them with the deepest roster in the league. Just more than a year later the Clippers fired their head coach after an embarrassing playoff exit and watched the Lakers cruise into the NBA Finals. So far, they've been all hype and no substance.

The Clippers are on the clock this offseason and time is ticking away.

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