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When Kawhi Leonard and Paul George joined the Los Angeles Clippers in 2019, it was widely understood that Leonard was the team's franchise player whereas George was his sidekick. Leonard moved to Los Angeles immediately after winning his second Finals MVP award as a member of the Toronto Raptors. He recruited George to join him in Los Angeles and has outscored him by nearly two points per game during their time together with the Clippers. George is a superstar in his own right, but his resume is just a bit less polished than Leonard's.

Of course, all of that flies out the window where free agency is concerned. George can become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and though he has said publicly he would like to extend in Los Angeles, the bar that Leonard set with his sub-max three-year, $152.3 million extension has seemingly thus far been a barrier. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey, "Los Angeles was unwilling to offer George more than the three-year, $152.3 million extension it gave to Kawhi Leonard."

According to Pompey, the Clippers are holding out hope that George will take less money to remain in Southern California, where he grew up. The problem with that line of thinking, though, is that even if Leonard is the more accomplished player, the free market dictates that a player is worth what the highest bidder is willing to pay him. 

Several teams are reportedly interested in George, and the Philadelphia 76ers are at the front of that line. They have the cap space to offer George a full max four-year, $221 million deal. Perhaps Leonard could have earned a similar deal, but we'll never know because he chose to extend early. George's patience has paid off in that he now has the chance to shop his wares to other suitors.

Besides, even if Leonard is the better player of the two, it's worth wondering if that necessarily makes him the more valuable one. While both have dealt with injuries in Los Angeles, George has played 34 more games (263 to 229). While he had to recover from a tibia fracture when he played for the Indiana Pacers, he doesn't have a single injury while in a Clippers uniform as devastating as the torn ACL that sidelined Leonard for an entire year, or even one that has lingered, like the quadriceps injury that Leonard first started dealing with in San Antonio. George's injuries have tended to be of the sort that could be categorized as isolated incidents rather than persistent issues.

George's free-market value also outpaces his production purely because of the rarity of his skill set. Wings that can shoot and defend at an elite level are the rarest and arguably most valuable type of player in basketball. Leonard checks those boxes as well, but again, he chose not to pursue free agency. George can, so it's hardly a surprise that there are teams out there willing to give him his max.

The Clippers have no recourse if George leaves. They don't control their own draft picks, so they can't pivot into a rebuild. There aren't other George-caliber free agents out there, and even if there were, the Clippers wouldn't have the cap space to sign them. If they want to remain as competitive as they've been in recent years, their only path is to pay George. If that means giving him more than Leonard, so be it. They may not have reached that conclusion yet, but they still have one month to change their mind.