Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Los Angeles Clippers Season Preview

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CHICAGO, USA - MARCH 13: Tobias Harris (34) of Los Angeles Clippers in action during the NBA basketball match between Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, United States on March 13, 2018. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Clippers entered the 2017-18 season with a vastly different roster than they had the previous season. Chris Paul was traded to the Houston Rockets. Jamal Crawford was traded in a salary dump, and J.J. Redick signed with the Philadelphia 76ers. However, they still had stars in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Led by Griffin, the Clippers got off to a hot start winning their first four games.

Nevertheless, that success was short-lived. They lost eleven of their next twelve games. To make matters worse, Patrick Beverley suffered a season-ending injury. Other key players like Danilo Gallinari, Milos Teodosic, and Griffin all missed significant time due to injuries. It was evident that a change needed to be made. So, Griffin was traded to the Detroit Pistons for a package that included Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, and a first-round pick. Sadly, the injury problems continued as Bradley appeared in only six games for his new team. However, the Clippers led by a breakout season from veteran Lou Williams and the recently acquired Harris somehow finished the season with a record of 42-40. In fact, they finished only five games behind the eighth-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves. Here’s a look at the 2018-19 Los Angeles Clippers Season Preview.

Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Los Angeles Clippers Season Preview

What Worked Last Season

The aforementioned Williams was acquired by the Clippers as part of the Chris Paul trade. Williams far exceeded anyone’s expectations averaging 22.6 points per game and 5.3 assists per game, which were both career highs. Williams led the league in fourth quarter scoring and helped the injury-riddled Clippers compete with the best teams in the West. Led by 50 point performance by Williams, the Clippers picked up a win over the Warriors at Oracle Arena. They even split the season series with the Houston Rockets two games to two. Although he was snubbed from the All-Star game, Williams picked up his second Sixth Man of the Year Award.

The Clippers also acquired center Montrezl Harrell in the Paul trade. Harrell began the season buried as the third center on the depth chart behind Jordan and Willie Reed. However, Harrell made the most of his minutes not only outplaying Reed but Jordan at times as well. He finished the season third in field goal percentage at 63.5% and established himself as one of the most efficient scorers in the NBA. Harrell seemed to get better every game. His scoring average rose every month of the season finishing in April where he averaged 16 points per game off the bench.

Harris was in the midst of a career season when he was acquired from the Pistons and continued that with the Clippers averaging 19.3 points with the team. Rookies Tyrone Wallace and Sindarius Thornwell played exceptionally well for a player on a two-way deal and a second round pick. Both of them showed immense potential especially on the defensive end and held their own against veteran players. Despite battling injuries, Teodosic showcased his exceptional passing ability, and the Clippers were clearly a better team when he was on the floor. Finally, Doc Rivers did a fantastic job of coaching the team. For various reasons, the Clippers worked with a very depleted roster last season. Rivers helped keep the team alive in the playoff race for the majority of the season.

What Needs Improvement

Health was the biggest problem for the Clippers last year. Gallinari, Beverley, Bradley, Teodosic, and Jawun Evans all had season-ending injuries or missed significant time. If they are healthy, the Clippers will simply have a much better team on the court than they did last season. Gallinari is still capable of scoring 20 points per game. Beverley and Bradley are two of the best defenders in the league, and Teodosic is the best playmaker on the team.

The Clippers were constantly being mentioned in trade rumors, which had an effect on player morale. Jordan, in particular, was being discussed as a player on the move for months. Lou Williams was another who had to deal with this. The Clippers play improved after the trade deadline passed and Williams signed his extension. The team is attempting to chase a playoff spot and Jordan is now in Dallas. In turn, I do not anticipate as many distractions from the rumor mill this year.

Despite a very deep roster, the Clippers lack a star player. Griffin, Jordan, and Paul are all in different cities. However, this situation is not as dire as outsiders believe it to be. Harris is capable of having an All-Star season and Williams is coming off of a year where he played at an All-NBA level.

Off-Season Changes

The Clippers entered the draft with the 12th and 13th overall picks. They traded up to the eleventh pick to select Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Then, they selected Boston College guard Jerome Robinson 13th overall. Gilgeous-Alexander is already looking like one of the steals of the draft and possesses limitless potential. Robinson is a skilled shooter and scorer, who will get to develop behind Williams.

After being the subject of constant trade rumors, Jordan signed a one year contract with the Dallas Mavericks. To replace him, the Clippers traded Austin Rivers to the Washington Wizards for center Marcin Gortat. Gortat is not the player he was in Phoenix, but he should be a solid starter. They then signed power forward Mike Scott, who shot over 40% from three last season with the Wizards. They also re-signed Bradley and Harrell to team friendly deals. Despite already having Beverley and Bradley on the roster, the Clippers signed Luc Mbah a Moute to a one year deal giving the team a trio of elite perimeter defenders. Finally, they brought back the rookie standout Wallace on a two-year deal worth $3 million.

2018-19 Season Prediction

Even though the Clippers do not have an All-Star on their roster, they have one of the deepest teams in recent memory. They have talented scorers (Harris, Williams, Gallinari), elite defenders (Beverley, Bradley, Mbah a Moute) and good prospects (Gilgeous-Alexander, Robinson, Wallace, Thornwell). Due to injuries, they are essentially adding eight good players to a 42 win team. Injuries held them back last year, but their depth should help them overcome those potential obstacles. I expect them to compete every night and surprise the world by gaining the 7th seed in the West. I do not believe that they will get past the first round, but a playoff appearance will go a long way towards building positive momentum for next summer when they will attempt to recruit Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler.

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