LA Clippers: Why the next few years are indeed championship or bust

NBA LA Clippers Paul George and Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
NBA LA Clippers Paul George and Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The LA Clippers traded for Paul George to pair with Kawhi Leonard in hopes of winning the title. Here is why it’s championship or bust for them.

The LA Clippers find themselves in uncharted territory this year once again, a place they were arguably in for a few years during the “Lob City” era.

They are in championship or bust mode for the next few years with the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard in free agency and acquiring Paul George through trade. The Clippers traded away a young and budding star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a solid scoring option in Danilo Gallinari, with the Oklahoma City Thunder also receiving six first-round picks in the process to obtain Paul George.

Most of the time in the NBA, when you have the ability to trade for a star, it is perfectly plausible to pull the trigger. With that being said, it does not mean the team that gets the star is the only winner of the trade. As is the deal with all trades, time will truly tell if both teams are winners in the trade but there is much more pressure on the Clippers in this swap.

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The Clippers, in this case, are the team that received the star but in order for them to truly say they are winners in this trade, they have to win a championship. They traded away a young and potential star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and gave away a plethora of draft picks to gain the rights to Paul George. It is a similar situation with the crosstown rivals Los Angeles Lakers, who traded away a group of young players with potential plus draft picks to get Anthony Davis. They are in win-now mode but they have to win to justify trading away their future.

The Thunder, on the other hand, has to receive a ton of credit for the way they handled this past offseason. It’s never easy trading away or getting rid of stars, especially when they are so loved by their respective franchises. Russell Westbrook is the most loved player in the history of the franchise and was moved for Chris Paul and a package of first-round draft picks. This trade along with the Paul George trade put many people under the impression that they were now in rebuild mode.

Currently, they are sitting comfortably as the 7 seed in the West and are a really fun team to watch with a bright future. Sam Presti did a great job replacing the two stars with assets to help build for the future.

That famous sidestep 3 that ended the Russell Westbrook and Paul George era in Oklahoma City will forever be one of the greatest shots in NBA history. The way social media exploded, praising Damian Lillard for his heroics and making a mockery of the Thunder who got bounced in the first round for the third year in a row.

This may have turned out to be what is best for the franchise. It was obvious the dynamic of Russell Westbrook or Paul George being your best player was not working. It was time for Oklahoma City to move on from Westbrook and Paul George and it’s always better to move on from players early, rather than late, which Damian Lillard helped them realize. They got a sizable return for both stars which has them set up for the next decade.

The Clippers are currently sitting third in the West and are one of the prohibitive favorites to take home the Larry O’Brien trophy this summer. They have a superstar in Kawhi Leonard, another star in Paul George, arguably the two best bench players in the NBA in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, as well as a championship-winning head coach in Doc Rivers. With this being said, it won’t be easy even with that great of a roster, especially in the Western Conference.

The rumors are true, the West truly is a gauntlet night in and night out and even the bottom half of teams will put up a fight on most nights. Last year in Toronto, Leonard had the luxury of sitting out games consistently and the team not missing a beat due to their chemistry without him, but also playing in the East. The Lakers and Clippers seem to be a class above the rest of the West but teams like the Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, and Houston Rockets are not going to be easy outs by any stretch of the imagination. With reports coming out that players aren’t fond of the treatment that the two new Clippers are receiving, it will be interesting to see how that correlates to their play on the court.

Although the Clippers are one of the favorites to win the title and will be for the next few years, this trade will only benefit them if they do in fact, win a championship. The Thunder have already won the trade due to swapping players that they weren’t winning with for a handful of draft picks, a proven scorer in Danilo Gallinari, as well as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander from the Clippers, and acquiring Chris Paul, who many thought was going to be traded but instead, has stayed to help the Thunder win and mentor Gilgeous-Alexander.

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Once again, if the Clippers win a championship, they are happy with the trade but if they don’t, they just traded away the next near-decade of first-round draft picks and will be left still in search of their first championship. As is the case in all sports, winning solves everything and that is why it is championship or bust for the LA Clippers.