Additions: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Marcin Gortat, Luc Mbah a Moute, Jerome Robinson
Subtractions: Deandre Jordan, Austin Rivers, Sam Dekker
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Patrick Beverley
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Tobias Harris
PF: Danilo Gallinari
C: Marcin Gortat
Key Bench Players: Lou Williams, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Montrezl Harrell, Luc Mbah a Moute, Boban Marjanovic
The Lob City era in Los Angeles is officially over after Deandre Jordan signed with the Dallas Mavericks back in July. With that said, the Clippers have a good mix of young and veteran talent to propel them into their future. LA could be a sleeper to fight for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, but without a bonafide star in their lineup, it is difficult to fully expect them to make the playoffs. The team is full of above average role players, who with a star, could really make things interesting in the West.
The Clippers biggest problem is not having a definite number one option day-in and day-out like they did with CP3 and Blake Griffin just a couple years ago. Now they must rely on players like Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, and Danilo Gallinari to carry the bulk of the scoring load in the first unit. Harris may have had his breakout season last year after putting up 18.6 PPG on 46.0/41.1/82.9, 5.5 RPG, and 2.4 APG while splitting the season between Detroit and the Clippers. Heading into his 8th season, Harris is still only 26 and has room to grow and improve, but should still be nothing more than a third option on a playoff contender. Bradley was a two-way stud in Boston for multiple years with his shooting ability and lockdown defense from the shooting guard position, but struggled with a sports hernia injury after being traded to LA in the Blake Griffin deal. Gallinari has always been a fine player throughout his NBA career, but is often injured, only playing in 21 games last season. The Clippers need a star in their starting lineup. It is a necessity for Western Conference teams to at least have one star to be competitive for a playoff seed.
How often does a bench player lead a team in scoring? Lou Williams only started 19 games for the Clippers last year in the 79 games he played in, but somehow led the team in scoring at 22.6, a career high for the dynamite sixth man. The 2018 Sixth Man of the Year may start on the bench but he plays the majority of the game after putting up a career high 32.8 minutes per game. Williams is their best player, but it is difficult to be a good team when your best player comes off the bench. Could he start over Avery Bradley if the latter is still dealing with his injury? Realistically yes and he should be Doc Rivers’ first choice as a replacement, but it is true that his scoring-in-bunches style of play is much more suited for a bench unit.
Patrick Beverly is another Clipper player who was bit by the injury bug last season, playing in only 11 total games before season-ending knee surgery. He was cleared for basketball activities back in June, but if he has lost a step and is no longer the tenacious lockdown defender that he has been over his career, there is one player who could step right in and produce at the lead guard position: rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander out of Kentucky. The Kentucky product was an absolute stud in his sole year of college basketball. At 6’6 with long arms, Gilgeous-Alexander can be a mismatch in the backcourt. After starting on the bench under John Calipari in favor of Philadelphia native Quade Green, Alexander quickly gained favor with Coach Cal through his defense, playmaking, and consistent three point stroke. A Second Team All-SEC player and SEC Tournament MVP, LA selected him with the 11th overall pick after trading up to get him. He is the future starting point guard for the Clippers and should be seeing minutes as the backup point guard right from the get-go under Doc Rivers.
After acquiring Marcin Gortat from Washington, the Clippers have a legitimate starting center capable of bullying opposing big men with his brute strength. The newly acquired Luc Mbah a Moute, gives Doc Rivers a versatile defender and a capable shooter on the offensive end. Jerome Robinson was a fantastic scorer in his three years at Boston College. The rookie may not get much time in his first year, but could end up being a solid role player in the future. Montrezl Harrell is a tremendous athlete and rebounder capable of being the Clippers first big man off the bench to incorporate a change of pace between him and Gortat. Boban Marjanovic is not a great player but his sheer monster size at 7’3 should give him some bench minutes.
Can the Clippers make the playoffs? They do have a chance but are by no means a favorite to do so. I expect them to land around the 10th or 11th seed in the West and picking up a late lottery pick in the next draft. Players in their range next year could include sophomore forward from Virginia, De’Andre Hunter, sophomore big man from Mizzou Jontay Porter, and two freshmen from Oregon in 7’2 center Bol Bol or scoring wing Louis King. This next draft class is nowhere near as talented as the past one so it may be harder for a late lottery team like the Clippers to snag a true superstar talent. The Clippers need to find ways to compete with the Lakers for the best team in Los Angeles now that LeBron has joined the purple and gold. If not, they will revert to their old ways before drafting Blake Griffin and signing Chris Paul.
Picture Courtesy of SB Nation/Peachtree Hoops (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander)
*For yesterday’s article on the Indiana Pacers, click here
Up next tomorrow: Los Angeles Lakers
University of South Carolina ’21