It’s been four years since the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t appear in the playoffs (2017-18) where they had an identical record to this past season at 42-40. The last time we saw LA in the playoffs, they had finally gotten over the hump of getting to their first Western Conference Finals appearance before falling in six games to the Phoenix Suns.
Looking forward to this upcoming season there will be a lot of positives for this team, as well as several key questions.
It is difficult for any team to contend in a tough conference without their best player Leonard (partially torn ACL) missing the entire season, and George only playing in 31 of a possible 82 (right elbow). George, also missed the second “Play-In” game against the New Orleans Pelicans because he tested positive for Covid-19. Head coach Ty Lue handled it as best he could under those circumstances. Now with a full year of recovery for Leonard should help immensely. People forget just three years ago he won his second championship along with his second Finals MVP for the Toronto Raptors. With a healthy George & Leonard, they will be able to compete with anyone.
2. Enough Minutes to Go Around?
This Clippers team was one of the deepest teams just a year ago without their two best players for a majority of the season. They had 13 different double-digit comebacks last year (more than 20-pts five times) and coach Lue will have even more at his disposal next season.
With the mid-season trades acquiring wings Robert Covington & Norman Powell from the Portland Trailblazers before the deadline, signing 5x All-Star point guard John Wall this offseason who came over from the Houston Rockets, the growth of young players big man Ivica Zubac, guards Terrance Mann, Luke Kennard, and Amir Coffey, the veteran presence of flashy point guard Reggie Jackson who has become a fan favorite and helped keep this team in contention for a playoff spot last year despite teammates being shuffled in & out of the lineup, and wings Nicolas Batum and Marcus Morris Sr. and welcome back a healthy Leonard & George, will there enough minutes to go around? Losing Big Man Isaiah Hartenstein may prove to be a bigger deal than it has been given credit because he was active big that was able to come in and run the floor and he did a lot of positives to help the team win. They currently don’t have anther center on the roster.
What we do know is coach Lue won’t play favorites. He will put out the five best players that will give him the best chance to win, regardless of the last name on the back of their jersey.
A healthy Clippers team next season should be in contention to compete in the Western Conference. According to Caesars Sports Book, they are projected to win 51.5 games. They are projected to win more games than 11 teams that made the playoffs a year ago, and it shows what sports fans think of this team. They are well coached and have the luxury of having several different lineups at any given time. After getting a taste of their first Western Conference Finals just a few years ago they will be hungry to prove when healthy, they can compete with anyone. No one should be surprised if this team is playing in late May heading into June.