LA Clippers Become NBA Title Favorites After Landing Leonard, George in Shocking Deals

Posted on: July 7, 2019, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: July 7, 2019, 02:25h.

The NBA Free Agency sweepstakes featured one whopper of a finish this weekend as a surprise suitor ended up not only nabbing one of the biggest names in the game but a critical complementary player as well to become the new favorite to win next year’s title.

Paul George, left, seen here guarding Kawhi Leonard will now become his teammate as the Clippers made big deals this weekend to bring both to Los Angeles. (Image: CBS Sports)

News broke early Saturday that Kawhi Leonard, fresh off leading Toronto to its first championship, would leave the Raptors and head to his native southern California and play for the Los Angeles Clippers. However, not only were the Clippers getting the two-time Finals Most Valuable Player, but they were also making a trade with Oklahoma City to land Paul George.

The news came as a shock as many insiders and reporters indicated Leonard was deciding between staying with the Raptors and playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Combined, George and Leonard averaged more than 54 points a game last season as they both finished among the top six in scoring average. That gives the Clippers a tandem to rival other teams, including the Lakers’ Anthony Davis and LeBron James.

Title Odds Clipped

When news of the Lakers landing Davis broke last month, sportsbooks installed them as the title favorites for next year. Caesars dropped them from 20-1 odds in May to 7-2 after the trade became public, and the Westgate SuperBook made the Lakers its top choice at 3-1.

On Saturday, the other Los Angeles team took over the top spot at most books. PointsBet opened the day making the Clippers +200 favorites, although the odds increased to +320 later in the day. At the Westgate SuperBook, the Clippers went from a slept on 16-1 choice without Leonard and George to 3-1 favorites with them.

(S)ince July 2, we sold 1 ticket on the Clippers at 16/1 … for $10 … that’s all folks,” tweeted Jeff Sherman, the SuperBook’s vice president of risk management.

As of midday Saturday, the Lakers remained the SuperBook’s top team according to the number of bets made and the money wagered. More than an eighth of the title tickets sold have been for the Lakers, and those tickets account for 41 percent of all title wagers, Sherman said.

FanDuel previously listed the Clippers at +1400. On Saturday, those odds became +290.

Not everyone, though, immediately put the Clippers to the top. William Hill’s US sportsbook kept the Lakers, who ended up signing DeMarcus Cousins and Leonard’s Raptors teammate Danny Green on Saturday, as the favorites at +300, but the Clippers were right behind them at +350.

Leonard Needed a Partner

According to an ESPN report, the Clippers, who share the Staples Center with the Lakers, felt they needed to make a move on Leonard to keep the Lakers from acquiring him and establishing a potential dynasty.

However, Leonard made it clear that he needed another player to come with him. Reports circulated that he approached Kevin Durant about teaming up together in LA, but when Durant chose to go to Brooklyn, Leonard sought out George.

The Clippers will pay Leonard more than $140 million over the next four years, according to reports. And they’ll pay an even steeper price for George, who still has at least two years left on his current contract. The trade included at least four unprotected first-round draft picks between 2021 and 2026, meaning the Clippers are potentially mortgaging their future for a title run over the next couple years.

However, for a franchise long considered a laughingstock in the league, team officials understood they needed to make the deal.