The LA Clippers giving Paul George an extension is a mistake.
The LA Clippers made the choice to re-sign Paul George for another five years, and for those next five years, the Clippers organization will have to look back on the trade that gave up so much for half a decade of so little.
To preface this article, I would like to point out a fact that I am well aware that most wouldn’t think I am, Paul George is not a bad player in the NBA. If you want to look to a bad player, it would probably be some very small no-name that gets called up from the G-League and stays for a game or two before going back down. George is, however, not the kind of player that can perform like he did in the playoffs and expect to deserve a five-year contract with a team trying to compete for a championship.
One of the joys of my life is to be able to write about the up and coming prospects that the LA Clippers have, and although I was willing to forgive the loss of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari with all those draft picks at the time, I am not going to pretend that we didn’t give all those up for a player that had 40 turnovers and multiple quarters of absolutely nothing through 13 playoff games.
Although Shai had his less than stellar games in the playoffs for OKC, he was still an incredibly bright player in just his second appearance in the playoffs that managed to put together his first 30-point game. Shai was also not taxed to be the second half of a star duo to carry a team, and he was still averaging 16.3 points, 4.1 assists, and 5.3 rebounds per game. He did his job as a sophomore prospect. George is a veteran that was expected to help Kawhi Leonard and ended up dropping 7 games of 13 because he didn’t even scratch the 20 point mark. Leonard only had two games in which he didn’t reach the 20 point mark. For anyone that claims that the depth of the whole organization could have helped, let’s talk about draft picks and what that does for a team.
Although draft picks are all left up to speculation, I think that there is something be said about the fact that the LA Clippers couldn’t even make it past the second round to face the 2020 champions in the Los Angeles Lakers and they don’t have consecutive picks in the first round until 2027. You can trade for star players instead of building any solid depth in your G-League system, but you better hope that those stars don’t turn around to score any points in the biggest quarter of your season. It’s not like a player you traded for that was crowned the Sixth Man of the Year would have turned out to be a defensive bust in the playoffs and then voided your team to go try and win a championship with your rivals anyway.
Having minimal depth doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for any injuries that might need a short or long term replacement for a player, so having such little depth to help the bench of a team that collapsed with a 3-1 lead isn’t a great look. This is why having ready-to-go prospects is such an important factor that some organizations overlook heavily. Although your younger players might not have the experience or basketball-savvy to replace an injured star player, you are completely out of luck either way if your replacement is scoring a maximum of 10 points because you didn’t have anyone better to rely on.
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Truth be told, the fact that the LA Clippers brought back Paul George after his performance last year isn’t a surprise, it is the fact that they decided to keep him long term that confused me. I learned about the sunk cost fallacy in my high school economics class, and I know that this is something that a lot of people accidentally factor into NBA trading. Sure, if you spend resources to get something and can’t get those resources back, it doesn’t make sense to be upset over sunken costs, but the wonderful thing about the NBA is that a player isn’t like a waffle iron. You can trade players to get other players. Maybe you can’t get the money back that you spent on a waffle iron, but you can trade a player or players to get something in return. That would have been helpful to think about before giving George a contract that is everything but movable while the team has a much better building block.
In terms of building this LA Clippers team, most people looked to Kawhi Leonard to be the main star of the team. Just look at how much press Kawhi got throughout the season and how many minutes he was out there on the floor. So, if the team has pinned Kawhi as the leader of the team, they best hope that he isn’t the one that leaves once his contract is up. The front office of the team is great, but even if you lead a horse to water, you can’t make it drink. It will most likely be another season before the talks with Kawhi really heat up, but for right now, good luck getting rid of George if he continues to struggle with a contract like that with the stain he has from the 2020 Playoffs.
The general consensus of LA Clippers fans throughout the regular season was that the team was clearly going to get a high seeding, so the effort had to be minimal at best before the playoffs. Paul George was averaging 21.5 points, 3.9 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game during the regular season.
In most aspects of his game, he was in the negative for what his averages per game were from the regular season to the playoffs. -1.3 in points, -0.1 in assists, +0.4 in rebounds, +0.5 in turnovers, +1.4 in personal fouls, .000 difference in two pointers, -.079 difference in three-pointers, -0.3 in field goals, and +7.2 difference in minutes on the court. The good news is that he had improved his rebounding average, but the obvious bad news is that he struggled in every other category that he could have. Clippers fans are right, the regular season doesn’t matter as much as the playoffs, and hopefully, George figures that out as well before the 2021 Playoffs.
In closing, the LA Clippers signing Paul George to a five-year contract will be a tough pill to swallow for the next half-decade. Not only did the organization give up one of their best prospects and years of potentially great picks, but they also sealed their fate to go down with the sinking ship that is George’s career over an economic fallacy that applies more to couches and refrigerators than it does to NBA stars.
Say what you will about potential bounce-backs because I do really hope that a player that got a contract that long isn’t completely useless on the court, but the line of his career most definitely is going the opposite direction of up. Here’s to the next five years and hoping that the team doesn’t lose anyone that is a true piece to the puzzle that is winning a championship.