The Los Angeles Clippers took a bold new approach by opting not to tank, despite moving on from Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. Instead, they are attempting to compete for a playoff spot this season. In today’s NBA, it is championship or bust, so general logic is to either tank or to compete for an NBA title depending on the construct of a team’s roster. However, the Clippers have to share a city with the Lakers, and the last thing that Clipper fans want to see was another losing season.
The Los Angeles Clippers Are Thriving Without a Superstar and They Are Just Getting Started
Jerry West and the Clippers front office managed to construct a team of talented scorers in Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, and Lou Williams, defenders such as Avery Bradley, Patrick Beverley, and Luc Mbah a Moute, and playmakers such as Milos Teodosic and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Clippers are truly 15 players deep. Boban Marjanovic, Montrezl Harrell, Mike Scott, and Marcin Gortat are also competing for minutes with the aforementioned players.
The Clippers currently sit at 6-4, even though they played the majority of their first 10 games against projected playoff teams. Sure they lost close games against the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans, but they also had resounding victories over the Houston Rockets twice, and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Clippers have been dominant on both sides of the ball. They currently rank 8th in the NBA in field goal percentage and are 5th in opponent field goal percentage. As their schedule becomes easier, they should only rise in the Western Conference standings.
A Sustainable Start
Sure the Clippers do not have any consensus superstar. Although, Harris could change that narrative. What they do have, however, is fifteen quality NBA players, and that is not something to be overlooked. The Clippers are not winning because someone on their team is suddenly on a hot shooting streak or they had an easy opening schedule. Bradley and Beverley are locking down opposing backcourts. Williams and Harris are scoring like their usual selves. Gallinari is once again healthy and looks just as good as he was in Denver. Marjanovic and Harrell are dominating in the restricted area. The team’s success is sustainable and as the season progresses the general public will have to take notice.
Strong Team Chemistry
Something, that particularly stands out about this years Clipper team is their attitude. Beverley, Harrell, and Harris have well-known work ethics, but nobody on the team possesses a large ego or a negative locker room presence. Perhaps, the front office learned from the Lob City era that team chemistry is important, but it has been evident all season long.
A recent Los Angeles Times article by Andrew Greif contained this quote by Lou Williams, “We don’t have a lot of egos. Obviously, when you deal with a certain tier of players, there comes a certain part of that responsibility and little airs come with that, as well. I think that we understand that for us to be successful we have to have everybody on the same team, kind of have to put your egos and your pride to the side and put some in the pot for the betterment of the group.”
The Potential for a Great Offseason
In a way, the Clippers are the exact opposite of the Lakers this season, which may be a good thing. They have low expectations, no locker room question marks, no big name superstar, and have thrived early on. Even though the Clippers will be competitive this season, that does not mean that they will not continue to play the long-term game.
They are projected to have up to $56 million in cap space next summer and are proving that they can compete even without a superstar. If you add two of the following three to this roster, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, or Jimmy Butler, the Clippers are instantly title contenders. It is not that far fetched. Tim Bontemps of ESPN conducted a survey of NBA GMs and the consensus was that Leonard was more likely to sign with the Clippers than the Lakers. Jerry West and the Clippers are not only set to surprise this season, but they are mapping out a new blueprint for years to come.
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