Are the LA Clippers Living Up to Their Lofty Early-Season Projections?
When your team is labeled as the top-contender to haul home the hardware from the NBA Finals, you can expect early season expectations to be high. With four games under their belt, the Los Angeles Clippers haven’t disappointed.
However, there have been a couple potential weak spots exposed, weaknesses that the Doc Rivers-led Clippers roster will need to correct in order to win the franchise’s first league championship. With 78 more games before the playoffs begin, here’s our first reaction to the team many project as winning the 2020 NBA Finals.
Winning When They Should
At 3-1, the Clippers are out of the gate in good shape. They already took down their cross-town rival Lakers by 10-points to open the season. LA handily dismantled an otherwise shorthanded Golden State Warriors team by 19 points. These two divisional games needed to be victories, and they were.
The only loss was actually an unexpected one. It took the Phoenix Suns shooting at a 50-percent clip from the field to beat LA on the Suns’ home floor. Phoenix sort of surprised the Clippers with six more three-point goals, the ultimate difference-maker in a close game.
Missing a Key Piece of the Puzzle
Missing in all four of these games was, not only one of the Clippers’ best players, but one of the stars of the league, Paul George. After watching LA spread their offense nicely during the first four games, we can only imagine how difficult it will be to chase down yet another ultra-proficient scorer. When George comes back, the Clippers will boast the most feared starting lineup in the NBA. It will be interesting to see how George fits in with what will likely already be a successful team. Will he get in Kawhi’s way? Will the players stepping up falter when they don’t have the same minutes? There are some unanswered questions that when answered could tell a Championship tale..
Despite missing one of their key players, the Clippers have displayed nice balance. There are actually seven players inching close to double-digit point production. Sure, when George comes back at full strength, the scoring responsibilities of JaMychal Green and Patrick Patterson will be reduced.
Kawhi Leonard, Lou Williams, and merging star Montrezl Harrell are all over 20-points per game. Adding the talent of a perennial NBA all-star to the first unit will turn a good team into an extremely impressive offensive basketball squad. Even without George yet, the Clippers are showing nice ball distribution and consequently good offensive balance.
Maybe even more impressive has been the defensive balance. Four Clippers are currently hauling down more than five rebounds per game. George is a strong rebounder as well, so the Clippers’ ability to limit second-shot opportunities for opponents will boost their offensive numbers.
Yet to Gel as a Team
The Clippers have played tight defense at very important points in all four games, except for the end of the Phoenix loss. The offense has looked fairly sharp, and there is an excellent balance. All of this is happening on a team that has yet to play five regular season NBA games as a unit.
Beating the Lakers at home was expected. However, the Clippers look to be ahead of schedule when it comes to blending as a unit. This often takes even the best teams a quarter of the season to realize.
Some might assume that the offensive end of the basketball court is where teamwork is most important. Basketball gurus understand that team defense in the NBA is probably more difficult than anything accomplished when in control of the basketball.
Currently, the Clippers have the best offensive rating in the league. With a 110.0 defensive rating, they only rank 25th out of the 30 teams. As this team begins to gel collectively as a unit, and benefits from the return of a good defender in Paul George, the Clippers roster will continue to morph into the favorites to hoist the NBA title hardware next June.
The 2019-20 NBA season is in the early stages, but some teams are living up to expectations. Picked by many as the next league champion, none had loftier aspirations to live up to than the Los Angeles Clippers. To date, it’s been so far so good for this half of the Tinseltown pro hoopsters. Our early reaction to the Clippers’ thus far is that the rest of the league better take notice.