The Los Angeles Clippers brought in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George before the 2019-2020 NBA season to win the franchise’s first championship. That hasn’t happened yet; they choked a 3-1 lead in the bubble before losing in the second round to the Phoenix Suns in 2021 after Leonard tore his ACL.
In the offseason, Los Angeles drafted Keon Johnson, Brandon Boston Jr., and Jason Preston. It’s uncertain if any will have a sizable impact this season. Their biggest move was acquiring Eric Bledsoe from the Memphis Grizzlies to be their new point guard. Leonard, Reggie Jackson, and Nicholas Batum were re-signed after all three had good seasons when they were on the court.
The other team playing at the Staples Center took more headlines, as the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, among other moves. We’ll see if the Lakers’ veterans will stay healthy. Right now, though, it’s time to talk more Clippers.
There are many statements being made about this year’s squad, but we’ve got you covered with our Fact or Fiction series. It features the biggest claims being made about the Clippers and gives you the answer with a decisive fact or fiction.
The Clippers Will Regret Trading Patrick Beverley
The Clippers surprised some people by trading Patrick Beverley. He was the most passionate player on their team and wasn’t afraid to piss off some opponents. We saw how much of an impact P.J. Tucker had for Milwaukee in the playoffs last season. Beverley was the Clippers’ version of Tucker. If Leonard was healthy against Phoenix, Los Angeles probably would’ve won the series and perhaps Beverley wouldn’t have been dealt.
Bledsoe, 31, only totaled 0.2 win shares more than Beverley last season. The Bucks thought so much of him that they traded him for Jrue Holiday to set up their championship run. Now with that said, Bledsoe will obviously have an impact for Los Angeles but don’t be surprised if the Clippers lose an edge to them without Beverley.
Verdict: Fact, He’s More than a Point Guard
The Clippers Will Win a Ring During Kawhi’s New Contract
Los Angeles wasn’t able to come through on winning a ring in Leonard’s first contract with the Clippers. It isn’t likely to happen in his second contract either. There are a number of reasons why.
Leonard’s playing alongside one other star and that’s Paul George. The 31-year-old finally played up to his capability in the playoffs but it’s still worth questioning if he’ll be able to replicate that for the next four years. It was just two playoffs ago that George averaged his lowest amount of playoff points per game since 2013. That happened with Leonard healthy.
Leonard is now not healthy and the Clippers aren’t winning a ring if he’s not on the court. He’s someone who doesn’t want to play unless he is 100% so Steve Ballmer could be paying Leonard $39+ million to sit on the bench all year. That would be wasting 25% of Leonard’s current contract. There’s also no guarantee Leonard stays healthy after he recovers from his ACL tear. Just with Los Angeles, Leonard has dealt with plenty of injuries including the torn ACL, right foot soreness, a bruised leg, and mouth laceration.
The Clippers need Leonard to be healthy to have any chance of winning and even then, the competition keeps getting better. The Lakers brought in another future Hall of Famer. The Golden State Warriors are getting Klay Thompson, one of the greatest shooters ever, back this season. The Suns are coming off an NBA Finals appearance. The Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets are going to be hungry and healthy after disappointing playoff performances.
All of those teams are better than the Clippers right now without Leonard. In other words, the odds are stacked against them to win a ring this year. George and Leonard could also become more susceptible to injury as they age. It’s hard to envision a path for the Clippers to win a title in the next four years.
Verdict: Fiction, Health is a Big Question
The Clippers Will Make the Playoffs
While Los Angeles isn’t likely to win a title this year, they should be able to get into the playoffs. There’s still plenty of talent on the team to beat the fringe teams, such as the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trailblazers even without Leonard. The Clippers still scored over 100 points in five of their six games against the Suns without Leonard in the second round and they’re bringing back nearly the same team this season.
Verdict: Fact, It’s Hard to Miss the Playoffs With This Much Talent
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