Boston Celtics

Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors celebrates his teams win victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game Six to win the 2019 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 13, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Top NBA free agent Kawhi Leonard has officially decided to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, creating a natural rivalry with LeBron James and the Lakers in L.A. And Leonard is getting a sidekick, too, as the Clippers are acquiring All-NBA swingman Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for what turned out to be a “record-setting collection of draft picks”.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped the Woj bomb to end all Woj bombs on Saturday, tweeting out the news of both Leonard and George going to the Clippers just before 2 a.m.

Per Wojnarowski, the Thunder are getting five first-round picks – four unprotected, one protected – and two pick-swaps in the trade that sends George to the Clippers. OKC is also also getting forward Danilo Gallinari and guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as part of the unprecedented package.

George reportedly approached the Thunder and requested a trade after Leonard persuaded him to find a way to join the Clippers. The way Woj’s sources describe it, OKC “made the best out of a difficult situation”.

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard battles with Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George during the first quarter at Scotiabank Arena. (Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard battles with Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George during the first quarter at Scotiabank Arena. (Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)

The moves instantly make the Clippers arguably the top contender for the NBA championship in 2019-20. They’re likely on a collision course with the Lakers, who opened up space for a maximum contract to make a run at Leonard themselves and group him with LeBron and Anthony Davis.

Leonard ultimately preferred to play with George on the Clippers rather than join the Lakers and form a possibly unstoppable dynasty. That possibility reportedly helped drive the Clippers toward giving up the biggest draft pick package ever seen.

Now that Leonard is headed to the Clippers instead, the L.A. rivalry will be a fascinating one to watch in the NBA for the foreseeable future.

As for the Celtics and the Eastern Conference, Leonard’s departure from the NBA champion Raptors should open things up quite a bit. Between the Bucks, 76ers, Nets, and perhaps the C’s, there’s no clear-cut favorite to come out of the conference.

What’s very likely at this point, though, is that whoever wins the Eastern Conference will have a major challenge in front of them against either Leonard’s Clippers or LeBron’s Lakers.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.