The Clippers' doomed 2019 Paul George trade will haunt them for years to come

Los Angeles Clippers v Phoenix Suns
Los Angeles Clippers v Phoenix Suns / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Danilo Gallinari. Five first round picks. Two first round pick swaps. That is the total package the Los Angeles Clippers gave up to acquire Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2019. It was quite the haul to ensure that the Clippers could land George and Kawhi Leonard, who was a free agent at the time.

Five years later Paul George is now reportedly signing a four year, max contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, leaving the Clippers with no means of replacing him and an aging Kawhi Leonard and James Harden. George now forms a big three with Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, who also reportedly signed a long term contract with Philly.

With the George and Leonard era now officially over, it is easy to say that the era was a failure. However, it is more logical to put these Clippers in the same class as the failed Brooklyn Nets superteam: a massive what if. 

Los Angeles gave up almost their entire future to invest in the star wing duo and this is what came of it:

  • A blown 3-1 lead in the bubble against the Denver Nuggets in the second round
  • A conference finals appearance in 2021
  • Play-in loss in 2022
  • Back to back first round exits in 2023 and 2024

Granted, the Clippers had to deal with injuries to George and Leonard throughout their tenure together, so that does play a role in their lack of success. This past season though, George played his most games in almost five years, but it was Leonard who was hurt prior to the playoffs and it hurt Los Angeles. Both players were only healthy for one entire playoff run and that was in 2020.

Now, the Clippers will try and contend in a crowded Western Conference with Kawhi Leonard and James Harden leading the way. Two aging superstars in a conference filled with young talent on the rise like Luka Doncic, Anthony Edwards, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and others may not be the recipe for success. Meanwhile for George, he joins an MVP in Embiid and an ascending young star in Maxey in the East, where they will try to dethrone the Boston Celtics.

George and Leonard were expected to produce a championship with the Clippers and they did not really come close. They could not even come out of the Western Conference. Injuries played a huge role in that, but nonetheless this was a massive failure, considering that the Clippers poured so much into this team just to produce mediocre results.

But what if they were healthy for all five postseasons? What if they took the regular season more seriously instead of load managing? What if what if what it…that is the question the Clippers will be asking themselves when George and Leonard are mentioned.