Update #1, 9:02 am: In a comprehensive feature published about the trade, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski writes that Thunder general manager Sam Presti leveraged the Raptors and Clippers off one another, knowing that each wanted George to pair with Leonard.
Wojnarowski writes that Presti offered a package involving George and Russell Westbrook to Toronto in exchange for a package built around Pascal Siakam but Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri balked.
In Ujiri’s defense, George and Westbrook, together, earn north of $70 million so any trade involving both of them would all but dismantle the Raptors as we know them.
Throughout free agency, Leonard has been recruiting George and eventually that was enough for OKC’s former star to approach the Thunder and request a trade. Wojnarowski tweets that while the Clips had long been a frontrunner, it would have been unlikely Leonard signed if they hadn’t also acquired George.
The Thunder will receive a total of five future first-round picks, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari as part of the haul for George. Four of those first rounders will be unprotected and they’ll also get an additional two pick swaps.
According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, the draft assets headed to Oklahoma City can be broken down like this:
- 2021 1st (MIA)
- 2022 1st (LAC)
- 2023 1st (MIA) (1 – 14 protected)
- 2024 1st (LAC)
- 2026 1st (LAC)
- Pick swap with LAC in 2023
- Pick swap with LAC in 2025
The Clippers were thought to be behind the Lakers and the Raptors in the days leading up to Leonard’s decision. The team’s ability to obtain George played a role in the Finals MVP’s decision and the Clippers now have one of the best pairings in the league.