The Thunder traded star Paul George to the Clippers for several future first-round draft picks, two pick swaps, all-rookie point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari. He’ll join Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard, who announced his intention to sign with the organization on Friday night.
Oklahoma City will now have unprotected first-round picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026 and two first-round picks from the Miami Heat in 2021 and 2023, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times, and the right to swap picks with the Clippers in 2023 and 2025.
The move, according to multiple reports, stemmed from George’s unhappiness with his current situation, which he shared with fellow Thunder star Russell Westbrook.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, teams across the league were aware of the “discontent” felt by both George and Westbrook in Oklahoma City.
Rival NBA teams have been aware of the discontent of OKC's two stars: Paul George -- and Russell Westbrook, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Leonard pushed the Clippers in recent days to deliver him a second star, and they did.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 6, 2019
George then approached the Thunder earlier this week to demand a trade, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. Meanwhile, Leonard was pushing both the Clippers to land him another star to play with in Los Angeles and George to make a move.
So Oklahoma City, feeling like it only had one option, then reached a deal to send George to Los Angeles.
After Leonard pushed George to find a way to get to the Clippers, Paul George approached the team and requested a trade, league sources tell ESPN. OKC was left with no choice and made the best out of a difficult situation, per sources.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 6, 2019
Source, to @TheAthletic: After a heavy recruiting effort from Kawhi Leonard, Paul George made it very clear to OKC in recent days that this Clippers trade is what he wanted. He gets his trade demand fulfilled, and now Russell Westbrook's future is certainly in question.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) July 6, 2019
George had just signed a four-year deal with the Thunder last summer, too, and averaged a career-high 28 points and 8.2 rebounds this year. His trade request, according to Brett Dawson of The Athletic, caught the team by surprise.
Per a league source, the Thunder were caught off guard by Paul George’s desire to play with Kawhi Leonard after a strong recruiting effort from Leonard. The whole situation unfolded in recent days.— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) July 6, 2019
So, suddenly, it appears that the Thunder will shift into rebuilding mode — something they could actually be in a solid position to do. With all the draft picks they brought in on Friday night, Oklahoma City will have plenty of ways to add new talent to its roster in the future. Based on those reports, however, it doesn’t sound like the team was prepared to hit the reset button — which will make its next moves extremely interesting.
Perhaps the biggest question left surrounding the team now, though, is Westbrook and his future with the Thunder.
Westbrook, who will turn 31 in November, signed a five-year deal last summer to remain with the team. It made sense at the time, because Westbrook has spent his entire 11-year career with the organization and helped turn it into a perennial playoff team in the Western Conference.
Now, though, he’s essentially the lone piece left in Oklahoma City.
Yet the former league MVP, given where he’s at in his career, may not want to have to battle through another rebuild. Given how quickly George apparently left the Thunder, though, Westbrook could easily be on the trading block next.
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