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NBA Players On The Move

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Posted: Friday, July 12, 2019 5:32 pm

The really big NBA Free Agent news didn’t drop until last weekend, when Kawhi Leonard announced that he was going to play for the Los Angeles Clippers, and he was bringing six-time NBA All-Star (2013 and 2014, 2016-2019) Paul George with him. Leonard selecting one of the Los Angeles-based NBA teams as his final destination shouldn’t be a total surprise, as in January he purchased a $13.3 million, 13,000 square foot home in Rancho Santa Fe. That would have amounted to a really pricey vacation home if Leonard had stayed with the Toronto Raptors next season.

You might recall that the First Law of NBA Real Estate, previously invoked when Lebron James purchased a $23 million home in Brentwood and left the Cleveland Cavaliers to play for the Lakers shortly thereafter. Of course James still owns a 33,734 square foot home in Akron, Ohio, which is worth a number north of $10 million. But hobnobbing with fellow ‘A’ list celebrities is more of a challenge in Northern Ohio.

The free agent signings create an interesting basketball standoff between the Lakers, featuring James playing point guard this season and center Anthony Davis, formerly of the New Orleans Pelicans, versus the Clippers represented by George and Leonard. The intriguing factor is that all four players have a history of injuries. During the 2018-19 season which just concluded, James played 55 games out of a possible 82, Davis played in 56, Leonard 60 and George 77. George had off-season operations on both shoulders, and it is thought to be unlikely that he will play in the very early stages of the 2019-20 season as he recovers from the surgeries. Much of the missed time for Leonard was attributed to a new NBA concept called ‘Load Management,’ which roughly translated means ‘Trying not to get hurt and letting the fans guess when I’m going to play.’

James is still a force, as is Davis. But James is 34 with a lot of mileage accumulated over his 16 NBA seasons. If this were five years ago, the nod would go to the James-Davis duo. James picked his spots last year with the Lakers when he played hard, and it typically wasn’t on the defensive end of the floor.

The exciting thing about the Leonard-George combo is they are both brilliant two-way players. George averaged 28.0 points per game last season and has twice been named to the All-NBA Defensive First Team (2014, 2019). Leonard is a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2015, 2016) and his playoff scoring average of 30.5 points per game, on his way to his second NBA Finals MVP Award, is indicative of what he can do with the ball in his hands.

From a team perspective, the Lakers ran headlong into the NBA Salary Cap when they added Davis to the roster, leaving them just $32 million to spend on essentially the rest of their roster, except forward Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo, who were already under contract. Laker signings of guard Danny Green and big man DeMarcus ‘Boogie’ Cousins figure to help their cause. Leonard-George step into essentially the same Clipper team which won 46 games last year. However, they are without point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and offensive-minded forward Danilo Gallinari, along with five No. 1 draft picks who were traded to the Thunder for George.

The early prediction here would be the Clippers will be better than the Lakers over the course of the season, as they have the superior supporting cast. But with the one-third of the starters on NBA teams last year changing teams, including 10 of the Top 20 players, it’s the most wide-open race for the NBA Championship in years.

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