Kawhi Leonard has signed with the Clippers, the team said in a statement Wednesday morning after the Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the two-time NBA Finals MVP inked a three-year, $103 million maximum contract with a player option in the third season.
The team followed with an announcement confirming that they acquired six-time NBA All-Star Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, the team’s first-round draft picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026, along with two first-round choices via Miami (2021 and 2023), and OKC obtained the right to swap first-round picks in 2023 and 2025.
“This is a historic moment for our organization and our fans,” Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said in the statement about Leonard, an Inland Empire native. “We are grateful and honored that Kawhi Leonard has decided to come home and join the L.A. Clippers. Kawhi is a peerless two-way player, a relentless worker and a natural fit for the serious, professional culture our group has established. He wins everywhere he goes, and he always has, from King High School to San Diego State to the NBA. Having him on our side is a tremendous privilege and a massive responsibility, one we will take very seriously. His expectation, and ours, is to contend for championships.”
About George, the 29-year-old forward from Palmdale, Frank said: “Paul George is one of the greatest two-way players in our game. He is both an elite scorer and a relentless defender whose versatility elevates any team. When you have the opportunity to acquire a contributor of his caliber, you do what it takes to bring him home. Paul is a native of the Los Angeles area and an ideal fit for the Clippers, thanks to his selflessness and drive. Following the lead of Steve Ballmer, we have plotted an aggressive course to build a championship contender, and acquiring Paul is a critical step.”
Leonard, 28, is entering his ninth season in the NBA. After 10 seasons, he’ll be eligible to earn a max contract worth 35 percent of the salary cap instead of the 30 percent that players with seven through nine years of experience can earn.
If the 6-foot-7 forward opted out in two years and re-signed with the Clippers, that deal would project to be about four years, $196 million with L.A., or four years, $188 million with another team.
The two-plus-one deal also aligns his contract with George’s. With the player option, both will be able to enter free agency again in 2021.
News broke last Friday night that both players would join the Clippers next season, Leonard via free agency and George via a blockbuster trade that would send Gilgeous-Alexander, Gallinari and five first-round draft picks to Oklahoma City.
Hampered by a lingering quadriceps injury, Leonard played only nine games in his final season with the San Antonio Spurs in 2016-17 before being traded to Toronto prior to last season, when he was put on a “load management” schedule. He played 60 regular-season games for the Raptors last season and all 24 postseason games, averaging 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists en route to the franchise’s first NBA title.
Leonard’s deal originally was reported to be a four-year, $141 million contract, according to ESPN.
The Inland Empire native is a two-time NBA champion, three-time All-Star and the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He’s averaged 17.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists over 467 games with the Raptors and San Antonio Spurs and is a two-time All-NBA first-teamer and a three-time All-Defensive first-teamer.
Leonard was selected by the Indiana Pacers with the 15th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft before being traded to the Spurs on draft night.
He played two seasons at San Diego State University and led King High of Riverside to the CIF-SS Division 1AA boys basketball championship in 2009, when he earned the 2009 California Mr. Basketball award as a senior.
George played two collegiate seasons at Fresno State before he was selected with the 10th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. He has appeared in 604 career games, averaging 19.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists with the Thunder and Indiana Pacers.
Last season, he averaged career highs with 28 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.2 steals and four deflections per game, recovering 2.7 loose balls per game, tied for third and fourth in the league, respectively. George has been named to the All-Defensive Team four times and was the Most Improved Player in 2013.
There it is. Riverside King’s Kawhi Leonard is officially a Clipper. pic.twitter.com/ucnQqDUzgR
— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) July 10, 2019
Leonard has signed a two-plus-one and aligned his contract with Paul George — with both players having the ability via player option to enter 2021 free agency. https://t.co/ZK3Z5huqiu
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 10, 2019