The rapid transformation of the Clippers from NBA laughing stock to premier franchise has been nothing short of miraculous. The upgrade to Steve Ballmer combined with the revamping of the front office since the summer of 2017 helped vault the Clippers into superteam status faster than anyone could have imagined.
Even before the Clippers acquired Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this offseason, there was a dramatic change in the team's perception around the league. Jimmy Butler listed the Clippers as a desired trade destination when he asked out of Minnesota last year, and new reporting indicates he wasn't the only disgruntled star pining for a move to Los Angeles.
As detailed in Ramona Shelburne's latest look into the New York Knicks' dysfunction for ESPN, Kristaps Porzingis had eyes for the Clippers last season before he was traded to Dallas. Once it became clear the Knicks were shopping Porzingis while he rehabbed a torn ACL, he asked to be moved to the Clippers, Nets, Heat or Raptors.
New York almost immediately traded Porzingis to the Mavericks after that request, so it's unlikely that the Clippers were ever involved in even preliminary negotiations. It is hard to imagine that talks would have gone too far anyway because the Clippers were unwilling to eat the Knicks' bad salary like Dallas did. That would have hamstrung their free agency plans this past offseason.
Ultimately, it all worked out pretty well for LA. The team made the Tobias Harris trade instead, netting Landry Shamet and a future pick to be used in the Paul George trade. The Clippers also made smaller deadline deals to acquire JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple, and Ivica Zubac, two of whom are key rotation players for this year's team. Keeping the books clean also helped in the acquisition of Moe Harkless, who has been indispensable this season.
Nevertheless, it's a fun what if to consider, and also another confirmation of the Clippers' standing in the league. It's a good feeling to be the object of another's desire, and the past few months have been successful for all of the parties involved.