Months later, it’s still rather remarkable how the Clippers won 48 games and won on the Golden State Warriors’ home floor in the playoffs. They traded their leading scorer and arguably their best player (Tobias Harris) at the deadline ... and never missed a beat. Lou Williams took over the role of premier scorer in the clutch and coach Doc Rivers got the most out of a roster that lacked an All-Star.
Even better, the Clippers didn’t want or need to go into the tank, as some speculated after the Harris trade. They kept thriving, doing the franchise and its fans proud. What’s more, they added Landry Shamet in the Harris deal and he played well as a starter. In addition to salvaging their season, the Clippers made quite the impression on a particular Toronto Raptor who just happened to be willing to return home to L.A. as a free agent. Plus, he had the sway with another Southern Cal product who ranked No. 3 in scoring last season. That player was willing to negotiate his way out of Oklahoma City. What an amazing April-July for this franchise.
> 30 Teams in 30 Days: LA Clippers
Excuse the comparison, but the impact in L.A. was seismic when the Clippers not only added Kawhi Leonard but Paul George. Instantly, they became the team to beat and will make the cross-town games with the Lakers an event … The Clippers extended Patrick Beverley’s contract in a solid decision by both sides. Beverley personified the gritty club of a year ago. They need him, and he needs them … Tyronn Lue turned down the Lakers’ job, then discovered none others were available. So he’s reunited with his mentor, Doc Rivers, and will upgrade the coaching staff … In a very underrated move, the Clippers acquired Maurice Harkless and a first-rounder in a multi-team deal. Harkless, always a solid contributor, helped the Blazers last season and will be coached up by Rivers.
1. Defense spoken here. It goes without saying the Clippers will be elite defensively, and maybe historically so. Leonard and George can guard multiple positions, offer help off the ball and can check the toughest assignments man-to-man. Add Patrick Beverley and this will be something to behold.
2. In triple-threat position. The Clippers have three players -- Leonard, George and Williams -- who averaged at least 20 points last season. Assuming they’re capable of doing that again, the Clippers will boast the level of firepower that few if any teams can match. They’ll be a handful with the game on the line.
3. Big man, big load. Although he surrenders about three or four inches to the biggest centers, Montrezl Harrell plays much taller than his 6-foot-8. He led the team in fourth-quarter minutes last season and will most likely be the late-game center again.
MAN ON THE SPOT
With Leonard still wearing the smell of champagne, George craves a championship in order to enhance his admittedly impressive credentials. George never reached The Finals when he was on the Indiana Pacers as LeBron James and the Miami Heat routinely thwarted him. In Oklahoma City, George and the Thunder never got out of the first round. His postseason performances have been a mix of stellar and so-so. That's changed now with him on a team with depth, a championship proven co-star and a coach who has been to two Finals (and won one). Expectations are steep. Assuming the Clippers are headed for a deep postseason run, the spotlight will shine more brightly on George -- and rightly so. How will he respond?
Patrick Beverley | 7.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.8 apg
Tenacious defender suddenly has a rather decent 3-point shot.
Paul George | 28.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 4.1 apg
No. 3 finisher in Kia MVP voting last season is an elite two-way player.
Kawhi Leonard | 26.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.3 apg
After carrying Toronto to a title, can he uplift another franchise?
JaMychal Green | 9.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 0.8 apg
Clippers love his all-around energy and team-first attitude.
Ivica Zubac | 8.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.1 apg
All Clippers want is rebounding from him; may not play 20 mpg.
Lou Williams | 20.0 ppg, 5.4 apg, 3.0 rpg
Is his face already on the Mount Rushmore of Sixth Men? Possibly.
Montrezl Harrell | 16.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.0 apg
Feisty paint performer will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Landry Shamet | 9.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.5 apg
Second-year sharpshooting guard could have a shot at starting gig.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If there aren’t any perfect teams in the NBA, the Clippers come the closest. Rivers has a championship (Boston), Leonard has two championships (Spurs and Raptors) and George has championship-level talent. That, plus a very seasoned and proven supporting cast give the Clippers all the ingredients to hold a parade in June. This is unexplored territory for the franchise, but consider that this isn’t your father’s Clippers. Donald Sterling isn’t the owner anymore, and there’s no stigma or black cloud following these players. It’s a totally different makeup with owner Steve Ballmer calling the shots and giving his team everything it needs to succeed. It’s very possible that the road to the title will come through L.A. and will swerve past the more traditional team in town.
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