All the hype from last season led to nothing but frustration and embarrassment for the LA Clippers. They squandered a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Semifinals against the Denver Nuggets, topped off by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both playing poorly in the knockout Game 7. It was a giant choke and way short of what everyone expected. In the ensuing off-season, head coach Doc Rivers was also let go and eventually replaced by assistant Tyronn Lue, while big man Montrezl Harrell jumped ship to rivals Los Angeles Lakers.
As such, the Clippers brought in new blood. The additions weren’t as flashy compared to what other teams did, but Serge Ibaka, Luke Kennard, and Nicolas Batum are a mixture of playoff experience and youthful energy. The three soon could prove to be sneaky-good acquisitions.
Let’s now list some bold predictions for the Clipps this season:
They will win the season series with the Los Angeles Lakers
This will raise some eyebrows, because yes, how can the extra-confident defending champions, who added more talent, lose the season series with the Clippers, who landed face-first in a postseason collapse?
Well, that’s the thing. While the Lakers pumping their chests out now (and rightfully so), leaders LeBron James and Anthony Davis are also likely coast in the regular season given the short, 71-day off-season. The Clippers, on the other hand, are well-rested, hungrier, and could be more aggressive due to the wave of criticism they got. It’s different when players have a chip on their shoulder, especially for elite talents like Leonard and George.
Ty Lue may also play a part as he is very familiar with James, whom he coached for four seasons while with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The point guard issues will continue
The lack of reliable playmaking played a good part in the recent playoff defeat. Though Leonard and George are considerably okay facilitators, and Patrick Beverley is a veteran point guard, none of them are true floor generals with the required court vision. That hole was left unfilled in the off-season, so we may very well see the issues happen again.
Leonard and George will continue to be scoring threats from anywhere, and their defense alongside Beverley and Ibaka should be fine, but at certain parts, we will see the bread-and-butter ISOs, post-ups, pick-and-rolls be overused and cause the Clipps some trouble.
Asking the two superstars to lead the ball movement on the half-court could also be a lot since they are already burdened at providing buckets.
Paul George will redeem himself
It’s easy to clown Paul George right now, and he has no one to blame but himself. Aside from his tendency to disappear in the playoffs – most of them during crucial stages – he’s also prone to saying controversial and sometimes confusing statements.
Here’s the big “however,” though: he’s still an All-NBA talent at the prime of his career. It’s not like he’s a scrub now because he froze in the Nuggets series. George is still athletic and can score inside and out, so look for him to be on various stretches dropping 25-plus points per game, making big shots and highlight plays throughout.
Again, don’t count out stars when they are on the depths of constant criticism, particularly when it’s as rough as the one George is enduring now. Besides, in this trajectory, there’s no way but up. He’s already gotten the moniker of ‘Pandemic P’ from some people, so it can’t possibly get any worse.