The Oklahoma City Thunder were, for a few hours, the most powerful team in the NBA. While they eventually traded Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers to help convince Kawhi Leonard to sign a deal with the team, a new piece by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN shows that the Thunder had the potential to do more.
Woj reported that the Thunder, knowing the situation they found themselves in, had the Clippers and the Toronto Raptors bidding against one another to trade for George and, as such, get Leonard’s signature, as the reigning NBA Finals MVP “believed George represented the co-star that he needed to combat” the Los Angeles Lakers. Both teams knew the stakes, and as such, pushed their chips to the center of the table.
While the Clippers ended up winning out — their war chest of picks and players may have been the best in the league — the Raptors were presented the opportunity to acquire both of the Thunder’s All-Stars … kind of.
Clippers leadership — Ballmer, Frank and general manager Michael Winger — harbored fears that Presti was close to striking a deal with Toronto that would have delivered George to Leonard and the NBA champions, sources said.
Had Presti been able to strike a deal for George with Toronto — and Leonard was willing to stay — George was believed to be willing to join the Raptors, sources said. Presti pursued a package of Russell Westbrook and George to the Raptors — with the NBA’s Most Improved Player, forward Pascal Siakam, as the centerpiece of a broader, asset-crippling deal — but Ujiri couldn’t keep up with the Clippers’ willingness to unload unprotected first-round picks into the middle of the next decade, league sources said. Simply, Toronto didn’t have the depth of picks it needed to get a deal done — nor the certainty that getting George would make Leonard stay with the Raptors, sources said.
That’s more than a huge deal, that’s the kind of league-shaking trade that would go down in the history books forever. The issue is that, as both Wojnarowski and Eric Koreen of The Athletic pointed out on Twitter, that wasn’t quite feasible. While it was proposed to whatever extent it was, that deal was more meant to use the Raptors as leverage to get the Clippers to pay up.
Even if this was a legitimate offer and the Raptors wished to execute it, as Wojnarowski mentioned, that would have required moving a whole hell of a lot of future draft picks and players other than Siakam. It would have required going all-in to an extent the Raptors just could not go all-in, and as reports indicate, while the Clippers were worried, the Thunder were aware that would be the case.