It has almost been four years since Kawhi Leonard and Paul George shocked the basketball world by deciding to join forces. Between that and now, though, their partnership has done minimal damage.
Let’s make a quick recap at how they’ve done so far in four seasons together:
- Regular season games missed: Leonard – 15, George – 24
- No injuries in the playoffs. The Clippers lost to the Denver Nuggets in the second round, 4-3, after blowing a 3-1 series lead.
- Regular season games missed: Leonard – 20, George – 18
- Leonard gets injured in the second round and misses the entire playoffs. The Clippers made it to the Western Conference finals and lost to the Phoenix Suns, 4-2.
- Regular season games missed: Leonard missed all season, George – 51
- The Clippers missed the playoffs after losing two play-in games.
- Regular season games missed: Leonard – 30, George – 26
- Leonard finishes the season averaging 27.1/7.1/3.7/1.4 with a 53.8%/47.0%/87.3% shooting split in his last 18 regular season games. He then scored 38 and 31 points in the first two games of the playoffs before getting injured and missing the entire playoffs yet again. The Clippers lost to the Phoenix Suns in a backdoor sweep, 4-1.
As you can see, it’s filled with missed games, which is even more frustrating when you know that a good chunk of it is due to load management and not actual injuries. It then makes you wonder how effective the rests really are if Leonard’s body is unable to hold up when it matters, time and again.
All that then raises the question if Leonard and George are worth keeping, especially they are on massive deals. Note that both have identical contracts, and they are each owed $45.6 million next season and $48.7 million for 2024-25 (player option).
Maybe it’s why there are rumblings about George getting shopped, or at least the Clippers entertaining offers? After all, Leonard was the main target in that blockbuster 2019 off-season, and George was not exactly meant to be a Clipper as he was only acquired because Leonard wanted to team up with him. Also, even before all the injuries and playoff shortcomings, it has been considered that while the tandem is exciting, their supposed 1-2 punch is ultimately a standard case of redundancy since both are two-way, high-scoring forwards.
Over the past week, there have been reports about discussions with a number of teams. The Portland Trail Blazers are in that list as they are exploring options about reinforcing top talent for Damian Lillard. Now that they took the highly-touted Scoot Henderson third overall in the 2023 NBA draft, though, and appear to really like the kid, that path may have reached its end.
Then, there’s the star-hungry New York Knicks, who are back to being solid but still in need of one true reliable offensive weapon, either to add alongside Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle or replace the latter. Whichever it may be, it was said that the Knicks and Clippers were going back-and-forth during draft night.
Here’s what SNY’s Ian Begley reported:
“They’re not trying to give him away, but they are trying to pivot, and they do have, I think, a franchise-wide frustration with the way that this era has gone.”
“Pivot” is probably the best way to describe it. It seems like the Clippers have become a tired franchise with all the missed games, constant shuffling of role players, and postseason disappointment year after year. Though it’s obviously best to help Leonard and George strengthen their health, it might be best to have split them up, and have someone who’s not only talented, but also able to give more appearances for the other, whoever they decide to keep. It can help change the team’s culture.