2019-2020 NBA Team Preview Series: Los Angeles Clippers
NBA.com (Clippers Digital)
The 2019-2020 NBA season starts October 22nd and to get you ready for tip-off, Off the Glass is previewing all 30 teams. Today we look at the LA Clippers.
2018-2019 Record: 48-34, 2nd in the Pacific Division. Lost to the Golden State Warriors 2-4 in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
Season Recap: The Clippers went into last season believing they could reach the playoffs, contradicting the general consensus reached by the rest of the NBA world. They went onto achieve what they set out to do, seeding 8th in the Western Conference, and largely over-performing in most people’s eyes. In February, they traded away their star man Tobias Harris, along with fan favourites Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott, in return for Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala (who later was later traded for Ivica Zubac). Many believed that the trades signalled the Clippers were intent on tanking in order to keep their first round draft pick.
Key Losses: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (G); Danilo Gallinari (F)
Key Additions: Kawhi Leonard (F); Paul George (F); Maurice Harkless (F)
Preview: #ClipperNation’s expectations are the highest they’ve ever been after the franchise assembled a title contending squad this off-season. The Clippers have vastly outgrown the underdog label they carried last season. The additions of Leonard and George, arguably the best pair of two-way players in the league, offers the Clippers flexibility with their rotations whether they decide to go big or small. They already have a well established second unit that crushed teams last season, which includes pick-and-roll kings Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams, with an elite starting lineup to match.
They say defence wins championships, and Clippers have this in abundance. Throughout the roster they have hardworking, gritty defenders that will suffocate teams and make them choke - especially on the perimeter. There’s a few question marks over playing Zubac for extended periods of time at centre, but the coaching staff expect him to make the adjustments necessary to deal with faster, more skillful foes. If this doesn’t plan out, they thankfully have JaMychal Green, who could start in a small ball lineup much like he did in last year's playoffs.
This is the season that the Clippers truly come out of the Los Angeles Lakers' shadow, being fantastically positioned to take advantage of a more level playing field league-wide.
Player to Watch: Landry Shamet (G)
Team X-Factor: Defence
Worst Case Scenario: Paul George’s shoulders don’t recover as expected and this causes him to sit out big periods of the season. Kawhi Leonard's health from two seasons ago comes back to haunt him. Essentially, that just leaves last year's squad minus SGA and Gallinari, which is a respectable collection of players, but definitely not a championship contender.
Best Case Scenario: The two superstars stay healthy, Ivica Zubac’s defence against more talented centres improves, and one of the deepest rosters in the NBA marches on to win homecourt advantage in the playoffs. These favourable conditions allow Leonard and George to work their magic in the playoffs, bringing home the franchise's first-ever NBA title.
Actual 2019-2020 Prediction: 65-17, 1st in the Pacific Division.