Kawhi Leonard to Clippers means East is Sixers to lose

Eliot Shorr-Parks
July 06, 2019 - 7:41 am

The mystery is over and the final answer after weeks of speculation couldn’t have worked out better for the Sixers. 

Kawhi Leonard, who single-handily ended the Sixers’ season last year, is heading to the Los Angeles Clippers, according to multiple reports. Joining Leonard will be Paul George, who will be traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Clippers in a blockbuster trade. 

The two moves make the Clippers instant NBA title contenders and set up what should be a legitimate rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers in Staples Center, something that hasn’t been the case for a long time. 

With Leonard gone, not only is the Eastern Conference there for the taking, but the Sixers should be expected to win it next season and make their first trip to the NBA Finals since 2001. 

Losing Leonard is an obviously huge blow to the Toronto Raptors, who went all-in on Leonard last season, only to see him leave one-year later. The championship they won certainly made the trade worth it, but now they are left with a roster that will be in the middle-of-the-pack in a fairly weak Eastern Conference. The Sixers, barring the Raptors pulling off another stunning trade, should be expected to beat the Raptors next season. 

The Milwaukee Bucks, last year’s No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, have also taken a step back, losing both Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic in free agency. Now, after a disappointing playoff exit last season of their own at the hands of the Raptors, the Bucks have nowhere near the depth the Sixers do. 

Although other teams always surprisingly emerge, it is hard to find one in the Eastern Conference that could push the Sixers. The Brooklyn Nets won’t have Kevin Durant next season. The Washington Wizards are a mess. The Celtics lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. The Miami Heat and Jimmy Butler? Nope. 

The Indiana Pacers could be improved depending on how Victor Oladipo returns from injury, but the Sixers still have more star-power and a deeper roster than the Pacers. 

Add everything up, and the Sixers will walk into next season, especially after all the new additions they made this offseason, as the favorite in to win the East. They added an All-Star caliber player in Al Horford. They have greatly improved their perimeter defense with the additions of Josh Richardson, a healthy Zhaire Smith and rookie Matisse Thybulle. 

The roster is not perfect, but it is the best in the Eastern Conference. It will be on Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to carry their team into the NBA Finals.

With Leonard now in the Western Conference, they have no excuse not to. 

You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!