The LA Clippers came into this year’s season with expectations that were through the roof. Having signed reigning finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, they also traded for All NBA first-teamer, Paul George. With those two alongside players like Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and Patrick Beverley, the Clippers were many people’s title favourites. They looked set to contend in the Orlando Bubble, up 3 – 1 in the second round against the Denver Nuggets.
The rest was history, however, as the Nuggets made a remarkable turnaround to win the series in seven games. Paul George was heavily criticized throughout the playoffs, having several bad performances.
Since the humiliation, Doc Rivers was fired and quickly hired by the 76ers. The Clippers could look to make more moves to make sure that they push for the 2021 championship. One of those moves could be to deal Paul George after just one season. Here are some scenarios where the Clippers trade George and remain highly competitive.
Giannis Gets One More Run at a Ring
The Trade: Paul George to the Milwaukee Bucks for Khris Middleton and a 2023 First and Second Round Pick
The Milwaukee Bucks were another team with championship aspirations that fell well below expectations. After finishing the year as the East’s top seed, they were humiliated by the Miami Heat in the second round. There has been a lot of talk about the future of Giannis Antetokounmpo, given that he has only a year remaining on his contract. It is clear that the Bucks still need more to get success in the playoffs. While Middleton is an All-Star, he is not the superstar that George can be. Middleton has also struggled in the playoffs, shooting 39.5% from the field in the two playoff series.
Paul George could rejuvenate Giannis and the entire Bucks franchise. They would be in a much better position to make the finals, with George’s elite play on both ends of the floor. It is quite a risky trade for the Bucks: if they fail, Giannis would likely be on his way out. However, it is a risk that they need to take.
For the Clippers, this is nothing more than a reboot. Middleton would be a reliable replacement for George and a solid second option for Kawhi Leonard. The Bucks need to throw in a first-round pick here due to contract length. Middleton still has four years left on his $178 million contract, while George will be a 2021 free agent if he declines his player option.
The Process Continues in Philly
The Trade: Paul George and Landry Shamet to the Philadelphia 76ers for Joel Embiid and Mike Scott
Another team in desperate need of change is the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Sixers were embarrassed in the first round by Boston, summing up another disappointing season for them. The duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid has not worked out together, and the Sixers should consider moving one of them on.
With this trade, Philly opts to build around Simmons and surround him with some much needed offensive firepower. George would have plenty of opportunities to shine, given Simmons’ ability to create off of drive and kicks. Reacquiring Landry Shamet adds some much-needed floor spacing, a major weakness for them last season.
The Clippers would likely let Harrell walk in free agency and build their team around Leonard and Embiid. This would be a ferocious one-two punch and could go all the way with a great supporting cast. Embiid would add another dimension to the Clippers offense, allowing them to play five out without sacrificing size inside.
Utah Looks to Make a Deep Run
The Trade: Paul George to the Utah Jazz for Rudy Gobert and Ed Davis
The Utah Jazz defied expectations by going up 3 – 1 against the Denver Nuggets. Unfortunately, they were the first victim of the Nuggets comeback and were sent home in the first round again.
Trade talks surrounding Rudy Gobert have been prominent ever since his downplaying of COVID 19 led to him and teammate Donavan Mitchell testing positive. The Jazz’ offense outside of Mitchell did not step up in the bubble, and George could offer the youngster some much-needed scoring relief. Utah can stretch the floor better without Gobert, and their defense will be much more versatile.
An extremely risky trade for the Clippers, but it’s one that could pay off. On one hand, the rim protection of Gobert would add another level to their exceptional defense. On the other hand, their switch-everything philosophy would be lost, and the floor will be less spaced on offense.
Gobert’s ability to defend and finish around the rim would undoubtedly help. There would be more pressure on Lou Williams to be a big-time scorer with the absence of George’s scoring. If they sign some free agent wings that add scoring, this Clippers team might just be in a better place with Gobert than with George.