While they reached farther distance than they did inside the Orlando bubble last year, the Los Angeles Clippers still fell short in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Even with Kawhi Leonard during the entire Western Conference Finals, the Clippers looked like they could take out Devin Booker’s Phoenix Suns. And yet, they ran out of gas.
The Suns booked a return trip to the NBA Finals with a 130-103 Game Six victory at Staples Center.
With another disappointing playoff exit in the books for the Clippers, the team looks to answer questions in the offseason.
Will Kawhi Leonard Stay?
Kawhi Leonard shocked the NBA in 2019 when he chose to sign with the Clippers and then recruited Paul George. Two years later, the duo hasn’t achieved anything yet.
Kawhi Leonard has a 36-million dollar player option that he can pick up for next season. Should he decide not to pick that up, the 2019 Finals MVP can become an unrestricted free agent. This move will allow him to sign a contract that will earn him more.
Kawhi Leonard isn’t the only player whose future with the Clippers needs deciding.
Retain or Not
DeMarcus Cousins, Nic Batum, Reggie Jackson, and Patrick Patterson could become unrestricted free agents like Leonard.
Jackson, for one, is a player that the Clippers need to prioritize due to his three-point shooting during the 2021 playoffs. He started 17 playoff games while averaging 17 points per game on 41% shooting from rainbow distance. The numbers should be enough to earn Jackson a bigger paycheck. The question now stands: are the Clippers willing to pay Jackson more to retain him?
Serge Ibaka has a 9.7-million dollar player option that he can pick up too.
Can the Clippers Run It Back?
It depends on three things: Kawhi Leonard and the team he will be alongside should he stay a Clipper.
The third thing: Paul George.
Paul George averaged 28 points, ten rebounds, and five assists against the Suns in the West Finals. He erupted for 41 points in Game Five to delay the Clippers’ end. And with Kawhi Leonard nowhere on the court, PG13 averaged 41 minutes against the Suns.
George also averaged 40 minutes against the Utah Jazz in the previous round.
At 31, Paul George is now entering his final playing years. He has been playing through multiple injuries plus the mocks from fans. Does he have enough left in his tank for another deep playoff run?
That’s a good question to answer.