How Kawhi Leonard-Paul George duo will disrupt NBA landscape
Ray Mark Patriarca
After half a decade, the upcoming NBA season might be the most unpredictable yet for most of the teams and fans of the league.
And it just got more exciting after a new power duo emerges in California after they silently operated a ‘heist’ when they got both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George from Toronto Raptors and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Leonard was the most coveted free agent (after Kevin Durant suffered from ruptured Achilles) in the offseason, rightfully so after orchestrating a championship run on a team that has no superstar players other than him.
Now, he will have a chance to transform the Los Angeles team that always play second fiddle to Lakers, not having a rich history of championship with zero trophies and had never advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
But he will not do it alone, in a surprise trade by the LA-based squad, they managed to acquire George from Oklahoma after an MVP-caliber performance last season.
These two superstars almost have the same pedigree, both started as defensive players in the NBA, and as years go by, emerged as the best two-way players in the league, and them teaming up will create shockwaves that will change the entire landscape of the NBA.
Giannis is the ‘New King of the East’
From ‘King of the North’ to ‘King of the East’ – that was the scenario last season for the Toronto Raptors, specifically because of Leonard.
Kawhi wasn’t the most gifted scorer in the NBA, nor the most fundamentally sound defender in the league, but what was special about him was how he mixes in well within a team, doesn’t hog all the spotlight and let others shine on their own (e.g. Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol).
And now with him gone in the Eastern Conference, it’s almost sure that Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the new force to reckon with in the said conference.
At the age of 24, Giannis already bagged his first NBA regular season MVP plum, averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists last season and was the primary catalyst on Milwaukee getting the best record last season.
And that won’t change anytime soon, Kevin Durant will skip his first season with the Brooklyn Nets and is not sure whether he can perform well after an Achilles tear. Boston will likely miss the playoffs after being one of the Eastern contenders, while Philadelphia 76ers is good on paper, but doesn’t have a track record to prove that they can take it all the way.
Balance of powers
For the past seasons, it was almost certain who will play in the finals especially on the Western Conference, but now, no super teams have been created to topple a giant.
Golden State Warriors will be tested after Durant left, Houston Rockets chemistry between James Harden and Chris Paul is in limbo, Oklahoma will again be a Russell Westbrook show, Denver Nuggets and Portland Trailblazers can be considered dark horses but doesn’t have enough star power to reach the Finals, while a LeBron-Davis tandem for the Lakers is yet to be proven effective.
Enter Los Angeles Clippers – there is no question, Leonard is a proven winner on any team, and him opting not to join the Lakers has created an equilibrium in the league that makes the Larry O’Brien up for grabs.