Woj: Raptors Rejected Russell Westbrook, Paul George for Pascal Siakam Trade

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2019

Oklahoma City Thunder's Paul George (13) talks with Russell Westbrook (0) during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Before sending Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers in a shocking deal, the Oklahoma City Thunder reportedly held talks with the Toronto Raptors focused on George and Russell Westbrook.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Thunder general manager Sam Presti offered George and Westbrook to Toronto for a package centered around forward Pascal Siakam, but the Raptors declined the offer.

Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star reported the Thunder "asked for Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and four unprotected first-round picks as a starting point for Paul George. The Raptors believed they were being used as leverage, and believed Kawhi finally, truly wanted LA. And then he left."

Instead, OKC sent George to the Clippers for multiple first-round picks, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari, per Wojnarowski.

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The Thunder will receive L.A.'s unprotected first-round picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026, unprotected first-round picks in 2021 and 2023 via the Miami Heat and the right to swap picks with the Clippers in 2023 and 2025.

Wojnarowski added that Presti attempted to pit the Clippers and Raptors against each other with the idea that whichever team acquired George would also win the Kawhi sweepstakes.

When Toronto balked at parting with a rising superstar like Siakam, the Clippers landed George, who was Leonard's preferred co-star to combat the LeBron James and Anthony Davis-led Los Angeles Lakers.

The Clippers reportedly feared that Leonard would sign with the Lakers and create a dynasty, which played into their decision to give up so much for George. It didn't hurt that Leonard reportedly wanted to play for Clippers head coach Doc Rivers.

It will long be questioned if Raptors president Masai Ujiri made the right decision by turning down the Thunder. Losing Siakam and watching him blossom into a perennial All-Star in OKC might have stung, but losing Leonard may hurt even more.

In Westbrook, the Raptors would have gotten a one-time MVP who has averaged a triple-double in each of the past three seasons.

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George finished third in the MVP voting last season after he enjoyed a career year that saw him average 28.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.2 steals per contest.

Putting them with Leonard may have been worth the price for Toronto even if the team would have had to dismantle much of the roster that won a championship last season. At the same time, it should be noted that Westbrook and George didn't make it past the first round of the playoffs in two seasons as teammates.

While the Clippers are championship contenders, the Raptors are left to sift through the rubble with Siakam poised to become the go-to guy. Toronto is still a playoff team with Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet in the fold as well, but a championship contender it is not.

The Thunder may not even be a playoff team next season, but they have a bright future thanks to a treasure trove of draft picks. They should also be competitive in 2019-20 with Westbrook leading a group that includes Gilgeous-Alexander, Gallinari, Steven Adams and Dennis Schroder.

The big winner in all of this is the Clippers, as they leapfrogged the rival Lakers to become the favorites to win the NBA championship with 3-1 odds, per PointsBet.

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