With the NBA offseason just about over, it’s time to look back at what just happened over the past month. For the Clippers, that was a lot, so we will review each major deal with the 213 Hoops Staff and do a roundtable on each signing, starting with the return of superstar Kawhi Leonard.
Shapan Debnath: A
Hard to argue with a top 5 coming back to the Clippers for longer than expected, injury or not. I think Kawhi Leonard is sacrificing some guaranteed money with this signing knowing he still will likely be able to get his huge 5 year supermax by the opt out of this deal, but it’s nice to know he has faith in himself, and in this organization, to get him to that point.
Lucas Hann: A+++++++
Seriously, the Clippers got a gift with this contract. Kawhi could have easily forced LAC to give him a 1+1 deal, sat out the entire season, and then forced them to give him a much bigger 4+1 contract that would have paid him a total of nearly $275 million over the next 6 years and a massive $54M salary in 2027 at 35 years old. The terms Kawhi settled for mark a substantial commitment to the team long-term (so we don’t have to deal with the clickbait again next summer) while sparing them the riskier high-salary/old-age years on the back end. It’s probable that they’ll end up paying Kawhi massive sums of money into his late 30s anyway, but now they’ll get the chance to see him for a couple years after his ACL surgery and make the decision to recommit to him in 2024 with a lot more data to determine if his health will be worth it.
One more bonus: with his salary guaranteed for several more years, I think it’s more likely we see Kawhi take the floor in 2022 if he’s cleared to play mid-season. If he’d taken the 1+1 and had another free agency looming, there would have been a much stronger business/financial disincentive to play next season.
Joey Linn: A+
As I’m sure it goes without saying, re-signing Kawhi Leonard was a must. Being able to lock him up for at least the next three seasons is especially exciting, because it eliminates any speculation that he would leave next summer. Even though there are obvious concerns about his health, he is the most talented player in franchise history, and the Clippers hopes at a championship in the near future were dependent on re-signing him. It can also be argued that Kawhi was playing the best basketball of his career in the 11 playoff games before getting hurt. Averaging 30 PPG on 57% from the field in the 2021 playoffs, Kawhi was on pace to join Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul Jabbar as the only players in NBA history to average at least 30 PPG and 7 RPG on at least 57% from the field in a single playoff run. It is safe to say that the Clippers locked up a good one.
Erik Olsgaard: A
Assuming A is the highest grade, that’s the one the Clippers get. I fully expected Kawhi to sign a 1+1 to guarantee himself the most money and put the Clippers back on the hot seat next year, but a 3+1 to sync up with Paul George is everything I could have hoped for the Clippers. They’ve locked in their core superstars for 3 guaranteed years now, which means we’ll get to see our dynamic duo in their new arena. If there’s any kind of a downside, Kawhi will be 34 at the end of the contract, so this could set up the Clippers to pay him $50M at age 39. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there—for now, let’s just celebrate the Clippers remaining contenders for the foreseeable future.
Michelle Uzeta: A+
C’mon. Of course this was an A+ signing. It’s freaking Kawhi Leonard. Despite the question marks surrounding his rehab and return from surgery on his partially torn right ACL, Kawhi is a bona fide superstar, and one of the best two-way players in the league (if not THE best). It was important for the Clippers to lock him down.
Kawhi’s contributions in 2020-21 were consistent and significant. The two-time NBA Finals MVP averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game over 52 games (34.1 minutes per game) during the regular season, and 30.4 points on 57.3 percent shooting, 7.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game (39.3 minutes per game) in the playoffs. Perhaps more importantly, the freakishly quiet Klaw developed into more of a leader on the floor, frequently interacting with and directing his teammates. A good sign. He’s invested.
The signing was not a surprise. Leonard had been expected to work out a new deal to keep him in Los Angeles paired with Paul George, who signed a maximum 190 million contract extension in December. The four-year contract reached was a bit of a head scratcher, however. Most analysts expected Kawhi to sign a 1+1 contract and max out during the 2022 free-agency period. Perhaps he wanted long-term security now? God knows the fans did. Whatever the reasoning, the Clippers have now signed both Leonard and George to long-term contracts with player options aligned for the 2024-25 season (the Clippers’ first season in their new home in Inglewood). I’m not complaining.
Thomas Wood: A
He stuck around, and he’ll do so for longer than he could have. Seriously, how painful would it have been if he’d signed a one-plus-one, rehabbed all season on the Clippers’ dime, then bolted. Franchise players, even oft-injured ones, are underpaid. The title window remains open.
Cole Huff: A+
We can speculate all we want and try to make sense of why Kawhi signed a four-year deal as opposed to doing a 1+1 and renegotiating for more money later. But respectfully, who cares? I’m not one to count other guys’ wallets or overanalyze what drives their money-making decisions — especially someone as secretive as Kawhi. I’m just glad he’s back for at least three years and we don’t have to sit through another season of unnecessary national media-created drama and speculation regarding next year’s free agency should he have gone the 1+1 route. Anyways, Kawhi remains one of the best players in the NBA, and the Clips were able to retain him. Board Man back. Easy A+.
Ralston Dacanay: A+
Re-signing Kawhi Leonard was an absolute no-brainer that the Clippers simply had to do, and the Klaw went an extra mile to show his long-term commitment to the team. The 213 duo is locked in together and here to stay. You could speculate about what this could say about the severity of his knee injury, for better or for worse, but I personally am just thrilled that I can continue to glance at my Kawhi memorabilia around my room whenever I want and get fired up.
Robert Flom: A+
Kawhi Leonard is a superstar, and the Clippers were able to re-sign him for the rest of his prime. It’s really that simple. And, as an added bonus, there won’t be any awful clickbait about him leaving next summer as there would have been if he’d done the 1+1 option, which is of huge relief to all of us who watch, write about, or root for the Clippers.
Kenneth Armstrong: A
The years and dollar figure of the signing are obviously awesome; so good, in fact, that most of us did not even consider this scenario as viable when we hypothesized about what Kawhi Leonard would do. But I want to highlight what this means for the Clippers organization in general: A top tier player *wanted* to stay for an extended run. What’s more, Kawhi is the second top tier player, after Paul George, to make such a decision. The last time the Clippers got this kind of commitment, it was when Blake Griffin returned. But, before that, Clippers fans went through Elton Brand and Chris Paul fleeing the franchise, dashing dreams of a renewed championship push. Apparently, Kawhi thinks this organization has it in them to get over the hump. That confidence is a notable change from the Clippers of yore.
That about does it for our roundtable regarding the Clippers’ signing of Kawhi Leonard. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!