Kawhi Leonard's Clippers extension is a gift to the Lakers

Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers / Meg Oliphant/GettyImages

After leading the Toronto Raptors to an NBA Championship many thought that Kawhi Leonard was going to join the Los Angeles Lakers to play alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Instead, Leonard convinced the Los Angeles Clippers to trade a draft haul for Paul George and formed a new title contender there instead.

Considering how much the Clippers have paid in luxury tax and what they gave up in the George trade, it is safe to say that this has not panned out. The Clippers have made just one Western Conference Final while Kawhi and George have been largely unavailable due to injuries.

This season has been different for the Clippers, though. The team took another swing by trading for James Harden in a move that many thought would backfire. Thus far it has worked as the Clippers have stayed healthy and have been playing really good basketball as a result.

Perhaps the Clippers are getting a bit too overzealous in this hot streak as the team struck while the iron was hot and signed Leonard to a three-year, $153 million extension. This new deal will keep Kawhi on the Clippers through the 2026-27 season and will pay him over $50 million in each of the three years.

That is a lot of money to pay someone who has missed a lot of games and hasn't really accomplished anything for his current team but alas, it is the Clippers we are talking about. All Lakers fans can do is sit back and laugh as this deal inevitably goes south.

Clippers extending Kawhi Leonard is a gift for the Los Angeles Lakers

The Clippers just hitched their wagon to someone who breaks down more than anyone else in the league. Leonard has played 193 regular season games for the Clippers out of 344 total games. Kawhi has played in 56% of the Clippers' games in that span and has cost the team dearly in the playoffs as well.

In 2021 he was injured in the second round of the playoffs and didn't even play in the only Western Conference Finals appearance in Clippers history. If he did play they might have made the NBA Finals that year. In 2022 he did not play at all and in 2023 he got hurt after two playoff games, which led the Suns to win that series in five.

Everyone loves to talk about Anthony Davis being in street clothes but he has been far more available for the Lakers than Leonard has been for the Clippers. Clippers fans thought the AD extension was bad when it was announced and that is ironic, as this deal is even worse.

Leonard is two years older than Davis and is now under contract through his age-35 season. Do you know what typically doesn't get better with age? Chronic knee issues. That tends to get worse as you creep into your mid-30s.

Plus, now the Clippers are going to have to lock down George on a new deal as well. The team doesn't want to be irrelevant and it does not want to admit defeat on the George trade that saw the Clippers trade a boatload of picks and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to Oklahoma City. So they will hitch their wagon to the guys who haven't accomplished anything yet in LA and hope that changes.

There is a reason why Kawhi's team wanted to get this deal done right now. It is because he is healthy right now and the Clippers are playing well. Agents are smart and they know that Steve Ballmer is riding high on his team's success and does not want to bring an irrelevant team to his new arena next season. Kawhi cashed out at the perfect time and it will end up hurting the Clippers long-term.

But hey, at least it provides some comedy gold for Lakers fans. Regardless of how well the Clippers are playing right now, they will always be chasing the Lakers in relevancy and will continue to make mind-boggling moves like this.

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