Why Bill Simmons is wrong about the LA Clippers trade for Paul George

LA Clippers Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LA Clippers Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

On his podcast, Bill Simmons of The Ringer criticized Kawhi Leonard for forcing the LA Clippers to trade for Paul George. It was the right move.

This summer was the biggest in LA Clippers’ history. The team acquired the reigning Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, and one of the NBA’s premiere stars in Paul George, thrusting them into championship contention. On Monday, Bill Simmons criticized Kawhi for forcing that move which saw the team trade a trove of picks, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Danilo Gallinari for George. While the price is astronomical, it’s still the right move.

You can hear his take on The Bill Simmons Podcast around the 30-minute mark.

All that mattered this summer was getting Kawhi. The Clippers were set to do whatever they could to land him and it’s nearly a consensus that he was coming home to LA no matter what. While the Raptors always had a chance, it felt mostly like an outside option. When Kawhi demanded that the team trade for another star, the Clips were put between a rock and a hard place. They had just two choices:

  1. Trade for Paul George with no regard for the future, hoping to win a championship in the next two years.
  2. Don’t trade for George, Kawhi joins the Lakers and the team is stuck as an at best seven seed.

Bill does bring up a possible third choice, which I will concede. He suggests the team could have gone to Kawhi and said, “Look, we are probably much better off keeping SGA, Gallo, and the picks. We can see how Shai develops and maybe make a deal come trade deadline time.”

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That’s fair and the team may have brought it up to Kawhi. We don’t know. What we do know is that Kawhi demanded Paul George and the Clips acquiesced.

The fact of the matter though is that the NBA is a player-driven league. In the same situation, I think if Kawhi says “Jump”, every front office asks “How high?”

Getting a player of Kawhi’s caliber is a huge get for any franchise but especially the Clippers. I mean, it’s the Clippers. When have they ever had anyone like this?

Even though only two years of George and Leonard are guaranteed, these two seasons are far and away the best opportunity the franchise has had at an NBA title. These opportunities don’t come often so when one presents itself, it becomes difficult to say no.

The other thing we aren’t talking about: Kawhi’s injury. His condition is degenerative and while the injury management helps during the year, we have no guarantee of how long his career will last (Knock on wood a million times). Hoping Shai would develop and waiting for either the draft picks to mature or for another star to become available could mean the championship window doesn’t open before Kawhi’s career ends. The team had to try and win now.

Yes, PG has missed a lot of time this season with the combination of his shoulder surgery recovery and lingering hamstring injuries. Even with that time missed along with Patrick Beverley‘s groin injury, Kawhi’s injury management, and the multitude of other ailments, the team has still maintained a solid record and is currently in third place in a tough Western Conference. When fully healthy, the Clippers are 5-0 with a 12.8 margin of victory. We have seen what they can be.

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I’ll be the first to admit Bill was right if Kawhi and PG bolt as soon as their contracts expire and we haven’t won a championship. But we are only 57 games into the first season of this duo. Let’s pump the brakes before we deem the deal a disaster.