2020 NBA Team Preview: Will The Clippers Mesh Well On And Off The Court?
The Los Angeles Clippers went all-in last season in an attempt to not only make their first Western Conference Finals appearance, but their first NBA Finals appearance. The Clippers are one of the most snake-bitten franchises in the NBA, and they thought they had taken steps necessary to overcome their frustrating and haunting history. Yet, they fell short in the NBA bubble playoffs, blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets while blowing double-digit leads in multiple games. The Clippers had an overwhelming advantage in that series on multiple occasions but still allowed victory to slip away. A lot of roster changes have occurred in the offseason, as this organization tries to find the right formula which will put an end to the Clippers’ misery.
The Clippers acquired Luke Kennard by trade from the Pistons. They got Serge Ibaka from the Raptors in free agency, and they also added Nicolas Batum from the Hornets. They traded Landry Shamet to the Nets and Rodney McGruder to the Pistons. In free agency, they lost Montrezl Harrell to the Lakers and JaMychal Green to the Nuggets. The Clippers did not select any player in the first round of the NBA draft. They got Minnesota big man Daniel Oturu in the second round.
Yet, all of those changes pale in comparison to the biggest one the Clippers made. Los Angeles fired longtime head coach Doc Rivers after the blown series lead against the Nuggets. Rivers had lost a 3-1 series lead in 2015 against the Houston Rockets, so this is hardly the first time the Clippers had to live with a humiliating playoff result. Rivers went to Philadelphia to take over as coach of the 76ers. The Clippers hired Ty Lue, who won the 2016 NBA title as coach of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Clippers hope Lue’s recent title-winning experience helps their new roster.
The Clippers Will Succeed If…
They get along. It’s really that simple. The talent is there, but the 2020 Clippers did not get along. The fact that Clipper Montrezl Harrell went to the rival Lakers in free agency clearly shows he did not enjoy being with the Clippers and that he wanted to go somewhere else where he would have a better working environment and a better roster fit. It is not a secret that Kawhi Leonard tries to lead by example – scoring, defending, playing defense – but there was no vocal locker-room leader who spoke up when things were going bad and morale needed to be improved. Serge Ibaka, who won the 2019 title with the Raptors, could be that guy as a new arrival. The new roster needs to get along and be happy. Otherwise, you’re not going to see this team respond well to pressure. Last season’s team caved under pressure. This team has to have a better attitude.
The Clippers Will Fail If…
Their 3-point shooting does not improve. There is a widely-held belief in the NBA that Lou Williams will be traded before too long. Williams was a terrible shooter in the NBA bubble in Orlando. The Clippers’ shooters – the players who were supposed to benefit from Kawhi Leonard and Paul George occupying so much of the attention for opposing defenses – did not do their job in the playoffs. This season, the Clippers’ role players have to be better shooters. Whether that’s Lou Williams or someone the Clippers trade for, that reality remains central to this team’s fortunes.
The Clippers won’t beat the Lakers in the Pacific Division. They will wage a battle with the Golden State Warriors for second place. Los Angeles will make the playoffs and probably win one series, but the ability to make the West Finals and a deep playoff run has to be questioned after last season’s complete and total flop.
Prediction: 3rd in Pacific Division