Paul George heard every nickname in the book after the Clippers’ unceremonious exit from the 2020 NBA playoffs. Pandemic P, Way Off P, Palmdale Pietrus — the internet is an unforgiving place.
But now Twitter jokesters must extend the list to include another moniker: Well-Paid P. George signed a maximum contract extension with the Clippers on Thursday that guarantees him as much as $226 million over the next five years, George’s agent Aaron Mintz told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
“As a kid growing up in Southern California, I always dreamed of playing in Los Angeles, where my friends and family could come watch me play,” George said as part of the team’s official release on the extension. “I am so grateful to [Clippers owner] Steve Ballmer, [president of basketball operations] Lawrence Frank, coach Ty Lue, my teammates, and the entire Clippers organization for believing in me.
“I am proud to call this my home and look forward to doing my part in helping make the team a tremendous success — both on and off the court — in the years ahead.”
What does this agreement mean for George and the Clippers? Let’s break it down.
The Clippers believe in Paul George.
In Los Angeles’ Game 7 loss to Denver in the Western Conference semifinals, the final blow for a Clippers team that struggled with chemistry issues all season long, George scored just 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting with five turnovers. That lackluster performance opened the floodgates for criticism and added another ugly line to George’s postseason resume. The “bubble” experience was certainly rough for George, who admitted that he was struggling both on the court and away from it with anxiety and depression.
However, George did enjoy a strong regular season before the stoppage in March. He averaged 21.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game with career-highs in 3-point percentage (41.2) and true shooting percentage (58.9). The Clippers are betting they will see more of that George in an environment that is closer to normal.
“Paul is one of the best and most versatile players in the league, and he has been for about a decade,” Lue said in the team’s release. “He can play on or off the ball. He can score in a variety of different ways. And he can guard almost every position on the court. His skill and leadership will be integral to everything we do for many years to come. I’m thrilled we can continue to build with PG.”
Los Angeles better be thrilled because this is a big financial commitment. The Clippers are tacking on four years and $190 million to George’s deal in addition to the $35.4 million on the books this season. ESPN’s Bobby Marks projects the extension to look like this:
George is still in his prime, but that’s $40-plus million in each of the last three seasons dedicated to a guy who will turn 31 in May. If George wondered about the Clippers’ confidence in his abilities, they just told him loud and clear that they are firmly in his corner.
Paul George may not finish his career with the Clippers, but he won’t be traded this season.
No contract makes a player completely untradeable, with the John Wall-Russell Westbrook swap serving as the latest reminder. If a team is desperate to move a disgruntled star or an albatross contract, the front office will figure it out.
It’s also important to note that George being happy with his current situation doesn’t mean he will remain happy. Ask Pacers and Thunder fans about that.
At least for the 2020-21 season, though, George isn’t going anywhere. The timing of his extension means he won’t be trade eligible until after the 2021 NBA trade deadline. (The league is reportedly targeting March 25 for the trade deadline, and George will have a trade restriction until April 9.)
So for all the trade machine operators out there, just know that George is off limits until next summer.
Will Kawhi Leonard re-sign after Paul George’s extension with the Clippers?
Both George and Leonard were eligible to become unrestricted free agents in 2021. The possibility of the Clippers’ dynamic duo bolting only two years after Los Angeles sent a monster package to Oklahoma City to ensure that they could acquire them had to keep Frank awake on certain nights.
Keep in mind, to acquire Paul George, the Clippers traded, to OKC, L.A.’s unprotected first-round picks in 2022 and 2024 and 2026, along with pick-swap options on the Clippers first-round picks in 2023 and 2025.
The Clips simply can not afford to let PG walk away in free agency.
— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) December 10, 2020
With George locked up, the Clippers’ full attention now turns toward Leonard. The two-time NBA Finals MVP is likely to decline his player option even if he plans to re-sign with Los Angeles. He could enter free agency as a 10-year veteran, which allows the Clippers to offer him a max contract worth 35 percent of the team’s cap.
Leonard is notoriously difficult to read, but the Clippers should feel good about their chances of retaining him. He wasn’t drafted by or traded to Los Angeles — he chose the Clippers in free agency in part because they gave him the opportunity to play close to home. Leonard also initially recruited George to join him in Los Angeles, so the extension should only help their case.
Sure, the Clippers will worry about Leonard having a change of heart, but if nothing else, the George questions have been eliminated. Maybe that will allow Frank to sleep just a little bit easier.