The scrutiny surrounding the Los Angeles Clippers is only beginning. After exiting the NBA bubble in the second round following their Game 7 loss to the Denver Nuggets, the team's star duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard will not be spared the avalanche of criticism that started to immediately come their way.
Speaking on First Take today, Stephen A. Smith waxed poetic on this very topic and said George is in danger of turning into the second coming of Dwight Howard.
George and Howard's career paths have been somewhat similar. Both starred for a small-market team before forcing their way out, and both eventually ended up in Los Angeles. Howard couldn't get it done and it signaled a downturn for his career as he bopped around to several different teams after his Lakers days, ending up in L.A. once more as a journeyman backup center giving the Lakers a good 15-20 minutes per night.
George isn't there quite yet. His first season ended in immense disappointment and his playoff performance left much to be desired, to say the least. The resources burned to get George to Los Angeles was unlike anything we've ever seen, which makes it feel all the worse. But at least they looked the part during the regular season. The Lakers were pretty bad the whole year and only got to the postseason because Kobe Bryant played out of his mind in helping secure a playoff spot. Unfortunately, he ruptured his left Achilles tendon in the process.
I still think the comparison to is a bit unfair to Howard. When he's playing well, George is a top-15 player, maybe top-10 depending on the right night. In Howard's heyday, he was a top-five player who led his team to an NBA Finals appearance and was around that level when he got traded to Los Angeles. George has a significantly lesser pedigree, even if the back half of his career could result in something similar to how Howard fell off. But even then, Howard's game became outdated within three years of his trade out of Orlando. George's skill set will always be valuable.
Besides, worse things have happened than becoming the second coming of Dwight Howard. That means many millions of dollars and potentially earning a Hall of Fame assortment of accolades. George hasn't gotten there yet, but even if he ends up without a ring, that isn't such a bad career at all.