The Clippers are still hot on the pursuit of Kawhi Leonard, and seem to be firmly in the mix despite lacking the championship pedigree of the Raptors or the starpower of the Lakers. On the other hand, it’s been rumored that some of Kawhi’s hesitancy in signing with the Clips is due to that same lack of star presence. If the Clippers can guarantee Kawhi’s signing by adding a star-level player of some kind, they almost have to make such a deal, regardless of what they give up in the process. Here are five such players they could acquire to help secure Kawhi’s arrival, some more plausible than others. All the “trade packages” listed below would be my first offer — I’d be willing to add more (to one extent or another) to all of these trades, under the assumption that Kawhi does in fact want the Clippers to get a star sidekick, and that he’d sign if they landed these players.
Trade Package: Danilo Gallinari, Landry Shamet, Jerome Robinson, 2021 Miami 1st Round pick, 2022 2nd Round pick
How the Deal Gets Done: Bradley Beal’s name has been bandied about in trade rumors more than any other player over the past couple weeks. The Wizards have constructed one of the worst rosters in the NBA, with a team comprised almost entirely of youngsters, vets on the downturns of their careers, and fringe NBA players. Standing in stark contrast to the rest of the team is Beal, an All-Star in the prime of his career. While Beal is a great representative for the franchise and helps sell tickets for Ted Leonsis, he can’t carry the Wizards on his own. Trading Beal will enable the rebuild to start in earnest, and the return from his trade will help jumpstart the next Wizards team. Shamet would become the best prospect on the team, Jerome a key bench scorer, and Gallinari a stable veteran who could help keep the Wizards somewhat respectable this season. Beal, meanwhile, would be an ideal running-mate for Kawhi Leonard, a terrific scorer and improving playmaker who’s become an iron man in recent years, and is perfectly capable of winning games on his own. So far, the Wizards have shot down every trade offer for Beal, but the right offer could surely persuade them to open negotiations. If need be, the Clippers can offer even more to nab Beal, including the 2023 Miami pick or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Getting Beal (and Kawhi) would be more than worth it.
Trade Package: Danilo Gallinari, Landry Shamet, Jerome Robinson, 2020 Clippers 1st Round pick, 2021 Miami 1st Round pick, 2023 Miami 1st Round pick
How the Deal Gets Done: Paul George just placed 3rd in MVP voting, so its incredibly unlikely that the Thunder are willing to trade him. However, the Thunder have also lost in the 1st round of the playoffs three years in a row, and are an expensive team with little upside, so maybe if the Clippers throw all their assets in the mix they get a shot. George is one of the best wings in the NBA, an All-Defense level wing who’s a top-tier scorer, yet can play alongside other superstars due to his off-ball abilities. As for the Thunder, they’d be able to transition to a new era with a bevy of picks, young players, and some freeing up of cap space after this coming year. Again, it would be shocking if the Thunder didn’t hang up the phone as soon as the Clippers mentioned PG, but if the Clippers have any chance of acquiring George, they must do all they can to get him.
Trade Package: Danilo Gallinari, Jerome Robinson, 2021 Detroit 2nd Round pick
How the Deal Gets Done: Danilo Gallinari was a more impactful player than DeMar DeRozan in 2019, and is a better fit next to Kawhi Leonard. However, if this trade gets the Clippers Kawhi, they would have to do it. DeRozan is a volume scorer with only middling efficiency, and his defense is far worse than Gallo’s. He is, on the plus side, a year younger than Gallo, and is also far less injury-prone. The Spurs would be able to save some money in 2020, and get off the specter of DeRozan picking up his 2021 option next summer. Jerome is a promising young guard who should pair well with Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker IV, being the best outside shooter of the group and the most natural scorer. The Clippers would be a little short on outside shooting with both DeRozan and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the starting lineup, but they’d probably have the talent with Kawhi to make it work. This is probably the trade that the non-Clippers team would be most likely to agree to, but also the least beneficial for the Clippers.
Trade Package: Danilo Gallinari, Sindarius Thornwell, and 2020 1st Round pick
How the Deal Gets Done: The Blazers have already moved on from a significant portion of their 2019 team which made the Western Conference Finals, and while McCollum is far more essential than any of the pieces that have moved on thus far, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could be traded as well. With Damian Lillard agreeing to an extension, the Blazers have security to build around him, and that could mean moving on from McCollum. Gallo fits a need as a taller wing who can get buckets and provide spacing around Dame: the Blazers currently have a hole at starting power forward that he would fit perfectly. Really, CJ is a worse fit on the Clippers with their depth at guard than Gallo on the Blazers, and it’s unlikely that he would make them all that much better over the next couple seasons. Just like with DeRozan, this would be a move for Kawhi more than anything else. It’s unlikely that the Blazers would make this deal, and I doubt he’d be enough to sway Kawhi anyway, so this deal might be the truly most unrealistic of any proposed here.
Trade Package: Danilo Gallinari, Mfiondu Kabengele, 2022 2nd Round pick
How the Deal Gets Done: Kevin Love is a very good player on an exceptionally bad, young, rebuilding team, and is signed for four more years. He deserves to play meaningful basketball somewhere, and the Cavs both don’t need his money on their books or the wins he will produce that will hurt their draft stock. Love is not quite as great as he was at his peak 4-5 years ago, but remains a fantastic shooter, rebounder, and overall player who would be a solid fit with Kawhi as either a power forward or small-ball center. He will be overpaid over the next four years, yet should still provide value as he ages into his mid-30s, and the Clippers shouldn’t have to give up too much to get him. Whether he does anything for Kawhi is an open question, but this is the trade that probably makes the most sense for both teams on paper.
Which of these options is most appealing to you all? Are there any star players in addition to these who might be available?