How Kawhi Leonard’s ACL surgery effects the Oklahoma City Thunder?

A lot of mystery surrounded Kawhi Leonard’s injury in the 2021 playoffs. It was never fully disclosed what the injury was or what Kawhi’s timetable was while the Clippers were still fighting in the playoffs. Much later however, after the Clippers were eliminated, it was revealed that Kawhi had surgery to repair a partially torn ACL.

The news came out of nowhere. It was shocking to hear this so far after the injury. The Clippers had kept it under wraps for quite some time. They knew Kawhi wouldn’t have been able to return to the playoffs, but did not officially diagnose him until after they were eliminated. After the initial shock passed, all the focus went to when Kawhi would potentially be returning. 

Even though the Clippers have not given a timetable for Kawhi’s return, it is assumed that he potentially miss all of next season, as ACL surgery usually has a 9-12 month recovery. If his recovery is in that ballpark, then the Clippers championship hopes are effectively crushed. This situation does get interesting for the Thunder however. The Clippers happen to be sending Oklahoma City their unprotected 2022 first round draft pick. This was received in the infamous Paul George trade in 2019. 

It’s deeply unfortunate to see Kawhi Leonard miss potentially an entire season of his career. He’s had trouble with injuries in the past, and it’s an awful thing when an all time great can play basketball during their prime. But this injury drastically changes how the pick is valued.

It’s a good sign for the Thunder that one of their earliest owed picks looks so promising. Who knows how a Kawhi-less Clippers team will do during the regular season? Could their pick possibly tumble into the lottery for OKC?

With the Clippers season up in the air, and their draft pick heading to the Thunder, Thunder fans should be paying close attention to the Clippers all of next season. Even if the Clippers aren’t title favorites, they could still be a playoff team next year if they retain some of their free agents, but in the tough Western Conference, you can never be certain. One injury to Paul George and the Clippers could be deep in the lottery. 

The Thunder are already looking forward to what will again be an interesting 2022 NBA Draft. Their own first round pick is owed to the Hawks, but would land back with the Thunder if it landed in the lottery thanks to it’s top 14 protection. They also are owed Phoenix’s first round pick, which is top 12 protected. That pick is likely to convey to the Thunder, as Phoenix will be coming off a very successful finals run. 

The Thunder will remain hopeful that the organization will have multiple lottery picks head it’s way for next year’s NBA Draft.