The biggest offseason in their franchise’s history has led to a Los Angeles Clippers season with expectations unlike any they’ve ever had before.
Anything short of a title will feel like a failure, particularly following the signing of Kawhi Leonard after a heated recruitment that involved other teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors, and the deal for Paul George, which included shipping away one of the biggest trade hauls in league history.
Now, Los Angeles’ less-popular brand will have expectations that are usually reserved for the city’s more well-known team. Considering the way Leonard usually handles high-pressure situations, though, that shouldn’t be a problem.
STAYING: Patrick Beverley, JaMychal Green, Montrezl Harrell, Rodney McGruder, Johnathan Motley, Jerome Robinson, Landry Shamet, Lou Williams and Ivica Zubac.
ADDED: Amir Coffey (University of Minnesota), Paul George (Oklahoma City), Donte Grantham (Oklahoma City), Maurice Harkless (Portland), Mfiondu Kabengele (Florida State), Kawhi Leonard (Toronto), Terance Mann (Florida State), Patrick Patterson (Oklahoma City) and Derrick Walton Jr (Alba Berlin).
GONE: Wilson Chandler (Brooklyn), Angel Delgado (Beijing Royal Fighters), Danilo Gallinari (Oklahoma City), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City), Garrett Temple (Brooklyn), Sindarius Thornwell (Cleveland) and Tyrone Wallace (Minnesota).
STRENGTHS: Roster is an embarrassment of riches … They have star power and depth like pretty much no other team … In Leonard, the acquired perhaps the best player in the league when the stakes are high … Maybe the best player, period … He’s elite on both ends with impressive all-around skills and calm demeanor that allows him to perform like few others when the game is on the line … With Paul George next to him, the Clippers should have the best wing play in the NBA since Dwyane Wade and LeBron James joined forces in Miami … Tremendous firepower off the bench with three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell … Aside from offensive talent, the Clippers have toughness too … With the personnel available, they should be able to win both the high-scoring and the grit-and-grind games … Doc Rivers at the helm is always a great asset.
WEAKNESSES: They are a bit thin at point guard … It’s not hard to picture them trading for a big-name playmaker at some point this season, but for now they will have to settle for Patrick Beverley, a solid player but by no means up there with the great point guards in the league … George will miss the first 10 games of the season, which is not ideal … Will his health be an issue during this season? … They lack elite rim-protection in their frontcourt … With two elite perimeter defenders on the wing, that problem could be hidden a bit, but it’s still a noteworthy hole on their roster … Leonard and George play essentially the same position, so it might take some time for them to learn how to thrive together, instead of it being a my-turn, your-turn situation.
PREDICTION: 1st in the Pacific Division, 1st in the Western Conference.