There is no Top 10 player rankings list in the NBA right now that doesn’t include Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s (SGA) name on it. The 24-year-old is on a tear to start the season, averaging 31.5 points, 5.8 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 1.5 blocks a game. While the rebuilding Thunder is currently slotted in 11th place in the Western Conference, there’s already no doubt that SGA is the present and future face of the organization.
Looking back on the Clippers-Thunder trade
Remember, SGA is in a Thunder uniform because he was traded for Paul George, Danillo Gallinari (who now plays for the Boston Celtics), and 5 first-round protected picks. In short, the Los Angeles Clippers traded their future, including SGA, for the rights to acquire Goerge. Granted, the Clippers had to do this corresponding trade because that was in agreement to land Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles in the first place.
In hindsight, George has lived up to the end of the bargain because he not only led the Clippers to their first Western Conference appearance in 30 years 2 seasons ago but he’s also been their most consistent superstar in terms of availability and production. But here’s the thing: was one conference appearance worth all the assets (including SGA) they gave up for George?
The Clippers were dubbed as one of the favorites to win the NBA championship this season (and they can still win if fully healthy), but with Leonard’s health this season being very uncertain (he’s missed the team’s last 12 games and has only played in 2 out of 15 contests thus far) those hopes are slowly slipping away.
Leonard, who tore his ACL 2 seasons ago on top of his knee and quad issues, clearly hasn’t been the same player and has missed more time than Anthony Davis (who already won 1 title with the Los Angeles Lakers) since becoming a Clipper.
Give the same energy as you do with the LAL-NOLA trade
It’s fairly obvious that the reason why the Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans AD trade gets more attention is that:
- The Pelicans are a better team than the Thunder at this moment
- Victor Wembanyama has entered the picture
- The Lakers are in the last few years of the LeBron-AD era
But while the future may look bright in New Orleans, at the end of the day, the 2020 Lakers title justifies the trade for them because, after all, the goal for all 30 teams in the NBA is to win a championship and not rebuild.
How many teams would die for that 1 championship the Lakers won in 2020 (whether in the NBA bubble or not, it doesn’t matter), including the Pelicans and Clippers? Meanwhile, the greatest achievement the Clippers have to show for the PG trade right now is a Western Conference appearance and their best few seasons in 30 years — but that’s no championship and part of the reason they did the trade in the first place.
It’s hard to blame the Clippers for trading SGA and their future for the sake of teaming PG and Kawhi up. You do that trade 10 times out of 10, especially if it means landing Leonard in 2019 (who was coming off a championship and was at the peak of his game).
But boy, this trade looks pretty bleak right now for the Clippers, and if SGA continues to reach another level of stardom, then it will only look worse unless the Clippers win their first-ever championship this or next season, which will all depend on Leonard’s health moving forward.