Basketball

Los Angeles Clippers Season Preview

Clippers
(Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press)

The Los Angeles Clippers just came off their most successful post-season run. Making the conference finals for the first time in franchise history. There’s only one thing left for them to do, winning a title in the Kawhi and Paul George era. However, Kawhi did suffer a partially torn ACL that will surely make their road tough. As we look at their offseason, we’ll determine if they did enough to be contenders. 

NBA Draft

Keon Johnson

Coming into the 2021 draft, the Clippers held the 24th and 51st pick. Near the end of the first round, the Clippers traded up to the 21st pick with the Knicks. From there, they selected Keon Johnson from Tennessee. A nuclear athlete with incredible driving and finishing ability and high defensive potential. Furthermore, Johnson broke the combined vertical record displaying his freakish talent. Although Johnson lacks shooting ability, he’ll provide energy and can be a great young piece for years to come. 

Jason Preston

Moving onto the 2nd round, the Clippers traded up with the Magic to acquire the 33rd pick. They went on to select Jason Preston. Preston was known for his story of resilience. From averaging only 2 points in high school to making it to the NBA. However, he’s more than just a story. Preston is a solid player all around. Moreover, he can shoot, drive, and is a solid playmaker. Preston has a chance to contribute right away. 

Brandon Boston Jr.

Finally, the Clippers took a swing at Brandon Boston Jr. from Kentucky. Boston Jr. was a five-star prospect and a projected top 5 pick preseason. However, Boston fell to the second round due to his underwhelming season at Kentucky. Boston struggled to score, staying efficient, and being positive in the half-court. Despite this, taking a swing on his talent near the end of the draft was a wise choice. Clearly Boston may not end up being the player he was supposed to be. Yet his talent is undeniable, and he still has the opportunity to become a quality player in the NBA.

Free Agency

Kawhi

The Clippers’ free agency revolved around Kawhi Leonard. An undisputed top-five player in the NBA and face of the Clippers franchise. Kawhi opted out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. Many felt he’d rejoin the Clippers, yet there was always uncertainty. However, Kawhi would eventually return on a max deal that made his intentions clear. Kawhi has desires to bring the Clippers their first-ever title. He’s been unsuccessful so far due to the bubble and injuries. The Clippers clearly need more depth and talent to capture Larry O’Brien to fulfill these desires.

Resigning Veterans

The Clippers did a great job of bringing their core pieces back. Resigning Batum and Reggie Jackson to multi-year deals was significant. During the playoffs, Batum and Jackson were the main contributors to their deep run. Jackson was one of the main stories of those playoffs, proving to be an incredible talent. In the second and third rounds, Jackson was the second-best player on the team. Not only that, but Jackson was arguably the best clutch scorer in the playoffs. Time after time, Jackson would hit clutch shots. Batum was an unsung hero. Being able to space the floor, defend all positions, and be versatile on both sides was huge for the Clippers. Seemingly viewed as being washed before the season, Batum has changed his perception dramatically.

New Additions

In addition to bringing back key veterans, the Los Angeles Clippers added some new talent to the team. Furthermore, signing Justice Winslow to a two-year deal. Winslow has had a slew of bad luck. Dealing with constant injuries his past seasons in the NBA. However, he has flash and promise as a two-way playmaking wing. Additionally, being able to learn under Paul George and Kawhi can help Winslow tremendously. If healthy, he’ll have the opportunity to be a contributor as Kawhi rehabs. In addition to Winslow, the Clippers traded for Bledsoe. This was more of a puzzling move than anything. Giving up Rondo and Otoru would be a great deal. But adding Beverly, who’s arguably the more impactful player come playoffs was the wrong decision. The trade may work out in the end, but as of now, it’s confusing.

Lineups

PG: Reggie Jackson SG: Terrance Mann SF: Paul George Pf: Nicolas Batum C: Ivica Zubac

When Kawhi went out with injury, the Clippers ran similar variations to this lineup. With everything considered, this would seem like the best lineup to put outcome this season. Furthermore, a perfect mix of young guys and veterans. On top of that, they have the most chemistry out of all groups.

Bench: PG: Eric Bledsoe/ Yogi Ferrell/ Jason Preston SG: Luke Lennard SF: Keon Johnson/ Justise Winslow PF: Morris Sr., Ibaka

With the trade for Bledsoe this offseason, it’s clear he’d take the role of being the 6th man. Winslow and Ibaka if healthy will both get major minutes and are expected to be major contributors. The same applies for Morris. However, Johnson as of now is a wild card. With the deep roster his minutes are in doubt. However, everything considered this seems like the best bench combination for the Clippers.

Season Outlook

The Los Angeles Clippers will undoubtedly be one of the most interesting teams next year. Without Kawhi it’s uncertain how far they can go in the regular season. But with Ty Lue being the coach that he is and the incredible amount of depth, they can continue to be a great team. Look for them to be a top 5 team in the West and absolutely be competing for an NBA title if Kawhi is back and healthy.

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Detroit Pistons Season Preview - Championship Sports Media

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