Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers have one of the best all-around teams in the NBA.
Previous owner Donald Sterling was forced to sell the Clippers after making racist comments about former Los Angeles point guard Magic Johnson and other players. The Clippers had struggled for decades under the leadership of Sterling and were considered to be one of the least successful franchises in NBA history. In 2014, the Clippers were purchased by tech billionaire Steve Ballmer in a move that would reshape the franchise and take it in a new direction. Since the 2013-14 season, under the leadership of head coach Doc Rivers, the Clippers have won on average more than 49 regular games per season.
Currently, the Clippers are facing the Denver Nuggets in a tough Western Conference semifinals matchup. For the series, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are averaging a combined 49.7 points per game. The series and fate of the Clippers season come down to a game 7 against the Nuggets tonight (September 15), as the Nuggets have stormed back from a 3-1 deficit.
The 2019-20 Clippers are widely considered to be the best team in the franchise’s history. Their starting five of Leonard, George, Ivica Zubac, Patrick Beverly, and Marcus Morris went 8-2 during the regular season. If that was not enough, they also have former NBA Sixth Man of Year Lou Williams and current NBA Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell coming off the bench
In the summer of 2019, Leonard signed with the Clippers through the 2020-21 season and has a player option for 2021-22. However, the Clippers have mortgaged their future to build their current roster and compete for an NBA championship in the near future.
George was acquired in a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder for Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, five first-round picks, and two pick swaps. This was one of the biggest trades for any superstar in NBA history, though it’s important to note that acquiring George also helped in signing Leonard as well. Just like Kawhi, George will be under contract through the 2020-21 season and has a player opinion as well in 2021-22.
In the 2019 season, George was selected as a finalist for NBA Defensive Player of the Year and NBA MVP. He is one of the few players in NBA history with such a distinction, along with legends like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
In July 2019, Patrick Beverly signed a contract with the Clippers through the 2021-22 season. To hopefully increase the Clippers’ championship odds, Morris was acquired from the New York Knicks for Maurice Harkless, 2 first-round picks, and a second first-round pick.
The Clippers have been at the forefront of some of the NBA’s largest trade deals since 2017. These deals largely put the Clippers in the position to sign Leonard during the 2019 free agency period and gave them the ability to trade for Paul George.
In 2018-2019, despite a turbulent season, LA won 48 games and took the defending champion Golden State Warriors to six games in the first round of the playoffs. Earlier in the season, the Clippers traded Tobias Harris, Mike Scott, and Boban Marjanovic to the Philadelphia 76ers for Wilson Chandler, Landry Shamet, Mike Muscala, 2 first-round picks, and 2 second-round picks. Avery Bradley was also traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green, and Muscala was shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers for Ivica Zubac and Michael Beasley. Zubac has become a key contributor and starter for the Clippers.
In the previous season, the Clippers traded their longtime franchise player Blake Griffin for Harris, Boban, Bradley, 1st round pick, and 2nd round pick. In 2017, LA traded Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets for Beverly, Williams, Harrell, Sam Dekker, Darrun Hillrell, DeAndre Liggins, Kyle Wiltjer, and a first-round pick. Taken together, many saw all of these moves as the Clippers resetting their roster for an overhaul, which came to fruition last summer with the signings of Leonard and George.
Past teams like the 2013-14 Clippers have had success in the playoffs. The Clippers had added Rivers as their head coach and saw instant success. Rivers had also previously been an NBA All-Star and had amazing success coaching the Boston Celtics. The 57-win 2013-14 Clippers made it to the Western Conference Semifinals. They featured a core of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, JJ Redick, DeAndre Jordan, and Matt Barnes, and had the highest offensive rating in the NBA during that season.
The Clippers previously played in San Diego, and before that played in Buffalo as the Buffalo Braves. The franchise has had 29 All-Star selections. Since 2010-11, these include Leonard, DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin.
Aside from the 2013-14 and 2019-20 versions of the team, the Clippers have only made it to the second round on six other occasions. The 2014-15 Los Angeles Clippers – led by Paul and Griffin – managed to beat the defending champion Spurs in a thrilling seven-game first-round series. They eventually lost to the Houston Rockets in a brutal game 7 in the second round, blowing a 20+ point lead in the deciding game. In that series, Griffin averaged 26.9 points per game and Paul averaged 21.2 points in 34.0 minutes per game.
The Clippers have struggled in years past, however, if they can get over the hump against Denver, this could be a championship season.