2019 NBA free agency seemed to be over before it started since by the time teams could officially talk to players, everyone already knew where they were headed.
All except for Kawhi Leonard who took his time in deciding whether to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, or Toronto Raptors.
Of course, Leonard decided to join the Clippers and he came with some backup as they pulled off the Paul George trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The move immediately catapulted the Clippers as arguably the favorite to win the 2020 NBA Finals.
Up until that announcement was made, the Lakers believed they had a real shot at landing Leonard after meetings with the front office as well as Magic Johnson. Even though Leonard ultimately decided to go elsewhere, Johnson told Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe on Undisputed he believes Leonard would be a Laker had the Clippers not landed George:
“He was going to come to the Lakers unless they got Paul George. Give Jerry West and Mr. Ballmer and all of them credit.”
One thing that did come out following the announcement is that Leonard told the Clippers that they needed to add another All-Star player in order for him to come there. He felt like they didn’t have quite enough talent to win a championship and believed George would put them over the edge.
Had the Clippers not been able to pull off that deal, it is questionable whether he would have went to the Lakers or returned to the Raptors, but it certainly seemed like the latter was unlikely. Coincidentally, some pointed to Johnson’s public comments about his meeting with Leonard as something else that turned off his camp, though that rumor was later denied.
Obviously, things would be completely different had Leonard chose the Lakers. Los Angeles would be the clear favorite to win a championship and the Lakers would be set up for the future as well with Leonard and Anthony Davis in town for the long-term.
As it stands now, there are a lot of teams with championship aspirations and the Lakers and Clippers are at the top of the list.
The way things turned out has ultimately made for one of the most anticipated seasons in recent history and Los Angeles is at the center of the basketball universe.