Preview: Los Angeles Clippers

2017-18 Los Angeles Clippers


Projected Record: 41-41 (9th in West)

Over/Under: 43.5

2016: 51-31 (5th in West)


Key Additions:

  • G Milos Teodosic
  • G Lou Williams
  • G Patrick Beverley
  • F Danilo Gallinari
  • F Sam Dekker
  • F/C Montrezl Harrell
  • F/C Willie Reed
  • G Jawun Evans
  • G Sindarius Thornwell

Key Subtractions:

  • G Chris Paul
  • G J.J. Redick
  • G Jamal Crawford
  • F Luc Mbah a Moute
  • F Paul Pierce
  • F/C Marreese Speights
  • F Alan Anderson
  • F Brandon Bass

Summary

Strengths:

  • Roster depth
  • Versatility
  • Offensive upside

Weaknesses:

  • Health concerns
  • Is Blake Griffin a #1?
  • Team defense could be weak
  • Western Conference

I sincerely like what the Clippers have done with their roster, knowing that they weren’t going to be keeping Chris Paul no matter what, but the irony is not lost on me that the Clippers finally have actual roster depth right as Paul has left town.

The Clippers are still very interesting in Paul’s absence, which is a win in itself, and I can understand a lot of people’s varied expectations for them. With as deep of a rotation as they have on paper, they could be a worthy low-seeded playoff team even in the West. Of course, the contrary to that would be that the West is now so loaded with stars, it’s difficult to see a team that just lost their biggest one compete. I can see both sides of the argument.

My thoughts lie somewhere in the middle; in a vacuum, I’d probably have the Clippers as the seventh or eighth seed. Basketball isn’t played in a vacuum, though, and this roster has injury concerns that cannot be ignored. Blake Griffin hasn’t played 80 games in a season since 2013. Danilo Gallinari hasn’t since 2009, his second year in the league. Patrick Beverley never has. These are crucial pieces; Blake is their best player, Gallinari is a top scoring option, and Beverley is one of their few defensive specialists. It’s a bad bet to say any of these guys can stay on the court for a full season, but can the Clippers stay afloat without them?

Even if they don’t ultimately make the playoffs, there are worse things than being competent and fun. Lou Williams is a killer, Montrezl Harrell brings energy, Sam Dekker is a promising young forward; they even grabbed two of my favorite second-round Draft prospects in Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell, the latter of whom I think could potentially contribute this year. They’ll be eminently watchable. I’d have thought about them as high as fifth or sixth in this year’s East, but alas, life isn’t always fair.


Most Valuable Player: Blake Griffin

This is, kind of unbelievably, Blake Griffin’s eighth season in the NBA, and it’s been quite the eight-year run. This season will be Blake’s first without Chris Paul at the helm since his rookie year, when he played with the likes of Eric Gordon and Chris Kaman. Obviously, this team is quite a bit better.

We’re going to find out this season how this fully matured Blake Griffin adapts without the dominant personality of Paul pulling the strings. How much of a star is he, actually? Short-armed, offense-first power forwards who aren’t perimeter threats are not in vogue in the league right now, and while Blake – like many NBA bigs – has been slowly adding more threes to his game, can he be enough of a threat from outside to force defenses to respect it? Repeating his 33% mark from last season might not be enough.

One thing we’ll get to see more of: Blake has quietly become a superlative passer for a big, dishing close to five assists per game each of the last three seasons. If nothing else, the Clippers offense will be moving the ball extremely well.

X Factor: Milos Teodosic

Preseason has begun as of this writing, and you’ve likely already seen some Teodosic highlights circulating from the Clippers’ first few games. Milos is the kind of player the Internet is going to love: a slick, flashy Euro guard who is going to spread the ball around and keep this offense moving. He’s not an unknown quanitity; as the 2009-10 Euroleague MVP, Teodosic has been on the radar for years. It remains to be seen how he’ll translate to the NBA as a shooter (he has a career 38.5% mark internationally) and defender, but as a follow-up to Chris Paul, he was a canny pick by the Clippers and should complement fellow new acquisitions Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley well in the point guard rotation.


Conclusion

I see this Clippers team as the 17-18 version of last year’s Heat: a deep roster with a few great players but no A1 superstar that overachieves and causes some excitement, but isn’t quite able to push themselves into the playoffs. They’re more talented than that Heat team, of course, but the level of competition in the West is just much higher. With Doc Rivers mercifully relinquishing his front office responsibilities, the Clippers are finally making positive roster moves again, and that alone should be cause for enthusiasm.

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