The Los Angeles Clippers ended the season much better than their disappointing collapse in the bubble, reaching the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. This was done despite not having the services of Kawhi Leonard who was sidelined with a partially torn ACL.
Even though Kawhi was injured, Paul George kept the team competed against the Phoenix Suns and blossomed as the number one scoring option. He had a playoff career-high 41 points in Game 5.
However, after the Clippers lost to the Suns in Game 6, George expressed that “if” Leonard had been healthy the outcome for them could have been different.
“This series would be a lot different. Talk about one of the best players in the League being out, yet we were inches away from getting to the next round,” he said, per ESPN. “So, definitely it’s a ‘what if’ on this. Fact of the matter is we didn’t do enough to win, and that’s the reason we’re going home.”
Leonard has a player option that pays $36 million for next season. If he declines, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent and could go elsewhere.
With other teams are already rumored to be interested, George spoke on the partnership possibly continuing after Leonard convinced George to play together in 2019.
“We’ve both grown, myself and Kawhi together. We really enjoy being teammates, and we see what we can be,” George said via NBA.com. “One of the commitments I made signing my contract was to show I’m here for the long run and I’m committed to this team. Hopefully that weighs on anybody’s decision.”
Leonard is not the only player whose status is up in the air. Serge Ibaka has a player option worth $9.7 million. A back injury ended his season prematurely.
The Clippers have a list of unrestricted free agents to decide on as well. Nicolas Batum, DeMarcus Cousins, and Patrick Patterson will all be unrestricted free agents. The biggest name on the list is Reggie Jackson.
Jackson exploded on the scene in the playoffs, averaging 17.8 points shooting 41 percent from three-point range. His performance might have set him up for a big contract next season.
The NBA free agency period will begin August 2nd.