When the current Clippers front office took over, the goal was to maintain flexibility so that the team would be in position to strike when superstars became available. Thus, the Blake Griffin and Tobias Harris trades that sent out talent but gave the Clippers more maneuverability.
Once Kawhi Leonard and Paul George came, the goal changed to making long-term commitments to players who could help this franchise compete for titles. The Clippers weren’t able to do that with either star the summer they arrived, but they took care of George this past offseason, signing him to a four-year extension that will keep him with the organization through at least 2023-24. Marcus Morris Sr. is also locked in through then, as is Luke Kennard. Nic Batum signed a deal that suggests he will extend with the Clippers for that long, and even Reggie Jackson is around for two more years.
The Clippers made good on their goal. They even locked in three rookies for multi-year deals, laying a strong foundation for years to come — a rarity in a league where title windows open and shut on a month-to-month basis.
The lone question mark was always Kawhi Leonard. When he opted out, the prevailing expectation was that Leonard would sign another short-term deal to optimize the value of his next contract, but Leonard too was retained on a long-term contract. Of all the commitments the Clippers made this offseason, Leonard’s was the most significant. His presence on this team — which once again lines up with George’s contract — is what elevates the Clippers to the next level, from a tough playoff out to championship contenders.
George said at the end of the season that he hoped his decision to sign an extension would demonstrate his commitment and influence his teammates to do the same. Rather than recruiting during free agency, he made a statement with his actions, and his teammates have all followed suit.
Lawrence Frank’s plan is once again coming together on paper. Now comes the hard part.
More news for Friday:
- ICYMI: Kawhi Leonard is back on a four-year max contract, with a player option on the final season.
- An Orange County orthopedic surgeon weighs in on Leonard’s recovery.
- John Hollinger listed Batum’s deal as the single best value of free agency in his offseason winners piece.
- Kennard’s extension has kicked in, which means the 25-year-old is firmly in two-house territory.
- Former player J.R. Smith is on a fascinating post-NBA path.