Kawhi Leonard, Paul George Shake the Very Fabric of the NBA by Joining Clippers

Preston EllisContributor IJuly 6, 2019

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 22:  Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors and Paul George #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder prepare for play to resume during the second half of an NBA game at Scotiabank Arena on March 22, 2019 in Toronto, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The entire landscape of the NBA has shifted and coincidentally has nothing to do with the 7.1 magnitude earthquake in California that postponed the conclusion of the summer-league game in Las Vegas in which Zion Williamson made his professional debut Friday.

In a league-shattering move, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will join the Los Angeles Clippers and forge a new superpower in the Western Conference, leaving the Eastern Conference throne unattended.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported Kawhi's decision early Saturday morning, while ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski added that the Oklahoma City Thunder netted "a record-setting collection of draft choices" for PG-13. According to The Athletic's Sam Amick, after "a heavy recruiting effort from [Kawhi], [George] made it very clear to OKC in recent days that this Clippers trade is what he wanted."

The other Los Angeles team now pivots from afterthought to title favorite with two-time Finals MVP Leonard and George, who would have carried a fair share of 2018-19 MVP votes before a shoulder injury torpedoed what would have been his most productive season.

And who saw this coming? The Thunder celebrated the return of George on a four-year, $136 million contract just one year ago. 

If a superstar with three years left on his contract can express his frustration to join another major market, can any small market ever feel safe?

The Clippers just sidestepped the free-agency loser designation and leapt to the forefront of the Larry O'Brien Trophy conversation armed with two of the game's 10 best players in a night most will soon not forget.

And why did it happen now?

Leonard has had five-plus days to make his decision but waited until the penultimate moment to make it known—and now it seems to be clear why. Kawhi was rumored to be recruiting stars to join him in Los Angeles, per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Wojnarowski, but after Jimmy Butler was traded to the Miami Heat, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving agreed to deals with the Brooklyn Nets and Kemba Walker went to the Boston Celtics, per Woj, most moved on from the other L.A. team as a legitimate possibility. 

Who could have thought George was the person who would team up with Leonard?

But it's time to answer the inevitable question: What does this mean for the other franchise in L.A.?

It means scramble mode. The Lakers wagered everything on Anthony Davis in the hope they'd score a team capable of contending immediately and lock him up long term in the following summer. 

But with Kawhi's decision made and limited free-agent resources available, could the Lakers be in for yet another disastrous season?

The George question is next. The Thunder reached All-Star Weekend as one of the NBA's more impressive franchises at 37-20 (third in the West). Then OKC imploded, in part due to George's rotator cuff injury, leading to a 12-13 finish and a first-round collapse to a Blazers squad the Pelicans had swept one season prior. 

George is the second top-flight player to ask out of Oklahoma City. What does this mean for the future of the franchise and Russell Westbrook

Finally, what does this mean for the Lakers, LeBron and AD? Will they get a third star? At one time, it appeared as though that star may have been Leonard.

But now that won't happen. Now their in-city rivals have a two-time NBA champ in Leonard and a six-time All-Star in Paul George who know how to battle LeBron in the playoffs. PG-13 took LeBron and his Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals with the Pacers in 2013, while Leonard won his first Finals MVP after stopping James' Heat from a championship three-peat.

There are a lot of questions unanswered that will likely get sorted out in the coming days, weeks and even months, but one thing is certain.

At roughly 2 a.m. ET, Kawhi shifted the power in the NBA, and with it, announced his continued dominance over a league that looks nothing like it did in 2018-19. 

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