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Kawhi Leonard signing with Clippers; Oklahoma City trading Paul George to Clippers

Posted: 11:20 PM, Jul 05, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-06 02:20:55-04

The Raptors were  confident . The Lakers were reportedly  confident .

But in the end, the Clippers’  year-long pursuit  of  Kawhi Leonard paid off.

This was put up quickly on the Kawhi Leonard official fan Instagram page, which is tied to Leonard.

The Clippers seemed to be a longshot in recent days because it was reported Leonard wanted to play with another superstar.

Enter the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are sending  Paul George to the Clippers for a massive package of players and picks, something broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Clippers become a top title contender in what looks like a wide-open league. The offseason has dispersed talent, leaving several teams in the championship chase.

As he showed with Toronto, Leonard can singlehandedly lift a good team to greatness. The Clippers established credibility with  Blake Griffin  and  Chris Paul . Now, they look poised to take the next step with the powerhouses that are Leonard and George, with depth that includes  Lou Williams Patrick Beverley Montrezl Harrell  and others.

The Raptors and Lakers will be left with harder choices.

By leaving the Raptors, Leonard makes history. Superstars had  never left the defending champion for another team . But Toronto should, and likely will, just be thankful he delivered a title in his lone year there.

The Raptors now appear extremely unlikely to repeat. But in the championship afterglow, they could go multiple directions. They could remain a solid playoff team with  Pascal Siakam Kyle Lowry  and  Marc Gasol . Or Toronto could trade those vets and start a rebuild around Siakam.

The Lakers must now find role players around  LeBron James  and  Anthony Davis . There’s a lot of pressure on general manager Rob Pelinka after last year’s front office – led by Magic Johnson with Pelinka as top lieutenant –  flopped  in its role-player signings. The task could easily make the difference between the Lakers winning and losing a title.

Because a lot of the top role players the Lakers had targeted —  J.J. Redick Trevor Ariza , etc. — are off the board, having signed with other teams. There are players such as  Danny Green  and  Marcus Morris Rajon Rondo  may return, but the pickings are much slimmer than they were five days ago.

As Los Angeles’ most popular team, the Lakers will remain in the spotlight. But the Clippers showed their credibility by completing their all-in push for Leonard with a commitment.

Now, they’ll look to get the championship payoff.