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Los Angeles Clippers

Offseason Grades: Did a team have a better free agency than the LA Clippers?

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LA Clippers (NBA Canada Illustrations)

The LA Clippers were clear winners in free agency.

Not only did they sign Kawhi Leonard, who was widely regarded to be the No. 1 player available in this free-agent class after Kevin Durant went down with a torn Achilles in the NBA Finals, they pulled off a blockbuster trade that nobody saw coming with the Oklahoma City Thunder for Paul George, a six-time All-Star in the prime of his career who was a finalist for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year last season.

Together, Leonard and George give the Clippers the star power they need to compete for a title next season and beyond. George might not have the same opportunities in Los Angeles as he did in Oklahoma City last season, but he and Leonard have the skills to complement each other perfectly on both ends of the court. Both are All-NBA level defenders who have the ability to do just about everything on offence, from spacing the floor as spot-up shooters to creating shots for themselves at a high rate in pick-and-rolls and isolation.

If they aren't the best one-two punch in the NBA right now, they're the second-best behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

MORE: Which Los Angeles duo is better?

The Clippers are more than just Leonard and George, too.

Prior to winning the Leonard sweepstakes and trading for George, the Clippers re-signed Patrick Beverley to a three-year, $40 million contract. Beverley made 41.0 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts last season and has the reputation of being one of the best defenders at his position, giving Leonard and George a much-needed 3-and-D option at point.

Moe Harkless, who the Clippers acquired in a multi-team trade this offseason, will provide much of the same, only at the forward positions. Harkless made 27.5 percent of his 3-point attempts last season, but he combined to shoot a more promising 37.5 percent from a perimeter in 2016-17 and 2017-18. A multi-positional defender, Harkless gives the Clippers even more versatility on that end of the floor.

The Clippers also have two of the three finalists for last season's Sixth Man of the Year award still under contract in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell.

Williams ended up winning the award for the third time in his career with averages of 20.0 points and 5.4 assists per game. Harrell, meanwhile, put together his best season yet, posting 16.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

Williams can take some of the pressure off of Leonard and George as a playmaker, while Harrell will be their primary pick-and-roll target. According to NBA.com, Harrell scored the third-most points in the league last season as a roll man, doing so at a rate (1.31 points per possession) that ranked him in the 88th percentile in efficiency. Having him set a screen for Leonard or George while some combination of Beverley, Williams and Landry Shamet surround them will be incredibly difficult for teams to slow down.

The Clippers will have the option of playing JaMychal Green alongside them at power forward as well. A career 36.9 percent 3-point shooter shooter, Green re-signed with the Clippers this offseason on a two-year, $10 million contract.

If there's one thing this Clippers team is currently missing, it's depth at the centre position. It might not be a factor against most teams, but the Los Angeles Lakers - perhaps their biggest competition in the Western Conference - could give their frontline of Harrell and Ivica Zubac trouble with their rotation of Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyle Kuzma and JaVale McGee.

With few centres remaining on the free agent market, their best bet at acquiring another big man might be on the buyout market closer to the playoffs should it become a problem.

OFFSEASON GRADES: Toronto Raptors | Los Angeles Lakers

The only knock on the moves the Clippers made this offseason is that they gave up a lot - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and as much as seven first-round picks - to acquire George, especially when you consider he and Leonard have player options in their contracts that could make them free agents again in 2021.

In which case, the Clippers would've mortgaged their future for two seasons of Leonard and George.

As much promise as they bring, they've both dealt with injuries in recent years. Being on as extreme of a load management program as we've ever seen from a superstar didn't prevent Leonard from battling through a leg injury in the playoffs last season and George underwent surgery on both of his shoulders at the season's end. With how deep the Western Conference now is, even one of them being hampered with an injury could be too much for them to overcome.

However, had the Clippers not traded for George, reports indicate that Leonard might have chosen to sign with the Lakers instead. Through that lens, the potential reward far outweighs the risk.

Grade: A+

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