The NBA world wasn’t the only one surprised by the Clippers making a trade for Paul George — it was a “complete and total” shock to the Thunder as well.
George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, had called the Thunder to request a trade on behalf of his client a few days ago, according to ESPN, which cited unidentified sources. But there was a reason why George requested a trade.
Kawhi Leonard recruited George to join him with the Clippers, even though George had signed a four-year deal with the Thunder last offseason. In order for the Clippers to sign Leonard, they had to have George as well, per the report.
Paul George’s trade request was a shock to the Thunder, and left them no choice but to oblige for a monstrous haul: https://t.co/wJVAwohoHq
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) July 6, 2019
The Thunder could have denied George’s request and tried to make it work, but they reportedly were concerned it could turn into a situation similar to Anthony Davis’ departure with the Pelicans.
Davis had requested a trade in January, but after weeks of speculation that he would be sent to the Lakers, the deal fell through and New Orleans failed to move him before the trade deadline. Just before free agency opened, however, the two sides eventually reached a deal to send Davis to Los Angeles.
With the Clippers’ big offseason move, they sent Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and five first-round draft picks, four of which will be unprotected, to the Thunder in a blockbuster trade. ESPN notes the deal is more than the Pelicans got for Anthony Davis, which was the previous precedent of return for a superstar of that caliber.
The Thunder opened free agency by re-signing Nerlens Noel and then adding Mike Muscala and Alec Burks. The transactions are low-level, and moves the Thunder likely wouldn’t have made knowing they would be trading away a core piece of their franchise.
Oklahoma City finished the regular season with a sixth-place finish in the Western Conference race and it held a 49-33 record. The Thunder had a disappointing early exit from the playoffs after the Trail Blazers eliminated them in five games.