The Clippers made the biggest splash of the off-season. Signing Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George going from a surprising and fun team to one with enormous expectations.
The team has lived up to expectations sitting in 2nd place in the Western Conference in spite of both superstars missing quite a few games. George missed games early as he was recovering from shoulder surgery and Leonard missed games for rest purposes. The extra break should help them be ready to go full speed during the restart and playoffs.
Best Supporting Cast
The Clippers’ non-superstars have really carried them at different times this year. Lou Williams and Motrezl Harrell have both averaged nearly 20 points per game. With Harrell adding 7 rebounds and more than a block per game to bolster his impending free agency. Harrell, Pat Beverley and Ivica Zubac when brought in with George and Leonard, give the Clippers an imposing defensive unit that can also get points almost at will. The team sits in the top 5 in both offensive and defensive rating which is exactly where the Raptors were last year on their championship run.
Like any team with superstars, an injury to George or Leonard would greatly erode their championship chances. They are +8 against opponents when both play but that drops to +4.7 when just one of them plays. The latter is not a bad number but that’s a much more competitive game than it would be otherwise.
Smooth Waters Ahead
The Clippers have hit some bumps so far in the Orlando bubble. Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams are all likely to miss the Laker game for a variety of reasons. Win or lose, the Clippers are pretty firmly set as the 2nd seed. The dream first-round matchup for the league would be the Rockets although it’s more likely to be the Thunder. Although the two clubs pulled off a big trade last season but no players traded were at either place long enough to develop strong feelings. The second round would likely pit them against one of the Texas teams, Houston or Dallas. The Lakers would likely be their opponent in the Western Conference Finals. Barring injury, I think the Clippers win it all this season.
Could Easily Run it Back
George and Leonard will be there through next season and have player options for a third season together. The biggest offseason question is if they’re able to bring back Montrezl Harrell, who is a free agent. Here’s where the current economic uncertainty could play in their favor. It would make more sense to overpay Harrell on a one-year deal and make another run for the title. They could then see what their chemistry and salary cap allow them to do beyond 2021.