They’ve got two of the biggest bench superstars on great contracts in the league (Lou Williams at $8 million and Montrezl Harrell at $6M) and a sophomore player who has a chance to make a huge leap with the national spotlight on him (Landry Shamet).
And they’ve got a coach in Doc Rivers with a championship to his name from the 2008 Celtics,
The Los Angeles Clippers look like a monster team in the making.
Vegas agrees, projecting the over/under for the Clips at 55.5, tops in the West and second only to the mighty Milwaukee Bucks for highest overall projected win total in the league.
On paper, it’s bordering on impossible to see a scenario where this Los Angeles superteam doesn’t improve by at least 8 wins, right?
But before we anoint them, let’s look at the numbers.
2018-19 record: 48-34
2019/20 over/under: 55.5
The Top End
Kawhi played only 60 games last year, managing his workload with the Toronto Raptors to make sure he was fresh as the produce at a farmer’s market for the playoffs. When the playoffs hit, he picked up his second Finals MVP along with leading the league in playoff Win Shares (4.9) and VORP (2.5 in 24 games, good for a mind-bending 8.54 VORP/82…against freaking playoff teams.
PG13 accounted for nearly a quarter of the Thunder’s wins last year with 11.9 WS, was one of only nine players in the entire league with at least 2000 minutes and .200 WS/48 or better (.201, good for ninth), posted his highest career VORP (5.3)…and on a team with a 1-4 postseason record, he had 0.5 win shares and .106 WS/48, way above what a player on a 16-win team (1-4 over 82 games is basically the Knicks) should put up.
Speaking of PG13 in the playoffs, in 2016 in Indiana, a first-round loss, he led all playoff participants in WS/48 with .284. People forget how putrid that Pacers team was without their superstar. He went full 2006 Kobe Bryant dragging that sorry outfit to the postseason.
My point is that if someone wants to say the Clippers have two of the five or ten best players in the whole league, I am not going to gainsay their assertion. Kawhi was sixth on that same WS/48 over 2000 minutes list.
Now that Domantas Sabonis has his big-money extension (more on this tomorrow), Montrezl Harrell inherits the title of possibly the best value contract in the league, and certainly the best value contract by a guy not on a rookie deal.
His Wiggins Factor is around 50. That…is grand theft on the part of the Clippers management getting a guy with that much talent for that cheap.
And he’s not even a starter. At least not until he gets a bunch of minutes in that role when Kawhi rests for load management. It’s a heck of a substitution to be able to make.
Lou Williams has inherited the mantle from Jamal Crawford as the perennial Sixth Man of the Year, making $8 million to do what Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson used to do in his prime, that is score a bunch of points off the bench and not sweat defense too much.
If Vinnie Johnson is “The Microwave”, Lou Williams is “Cooking With Thermite.” He averaged a wild 27.1 points per 36 minutes in order to notch 20 points per game in just one start and 1,993 overall minutes.
The Second-Year Star in the Making
Shamet, for his part, shot 42.2 percent from 3-point range as a rookie, instantly showing out as an offensive force and proving himself even more efficient in LA (45.0 percent) than he was in Philadelphia (40.6.)
Granted, he’s a terrible defender, but he might very well grow into learning how to guard guys, and in any case, Doc Rivers will be able to hide him with two first-team All-Defensive caliber players (George has made that list and Leonard is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year) in the lineup.
It’s not often a guard posts a True Shooting Percentage better than .600, but Shamet did it last year overall and even did it on both teams he played for.
This Clippers team is going to run guys off the floor with their offense.
And Did We Mention Patrick Beverley?
That’s right, it’s the sub-12 PER and above-2 VORP Club. Guys the offensive stats undervalue while the defensive advanced stats show the alert basketball mind why no team is complete without a guy like this.
Of course, Beverley is a 39.7 percent three-point shooter, so it’s not like that outdated John Hollinger stat even manages to capture PatBev’s capabilities as the fourth or fifth scoring option.
But it’s the defense that shines. This Clippers team has a chance to challenge the 1994 Knicks and 2014 Spurs as the greatest defensive teams ever to play the game.
Look, I love everything about this Los Angeles Clippers roster. It’s really that simple. They have the right superstars, an amazing supporting cast that runs deep and gives a proven winner of a coach plenty of offensive options while playing lockdown defense.
Will they win 56 games or more? Sure. They’ll be the 1 seed, so that’s at least the 57 Golden State got last year.
Will they win the championship? It’s them or the Milwaukee Bucks. That’s who I’ve got for the Finals.
Confirmed. Over. All the superlatives. But there’s one team left: Tomorrow, we examine the crash landing of the Golden State Warriors (this will be after the games actually start but before the Dubs play one), and then it’s time for games that count. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!
NEXT: Golden State Warriors.