The Clippers entered the 2019-2020 NBA season as something they had never been before, the favorite. After a summer that saw the Clippers land Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, expectations are now at an all-time high and anything less than a championship will be viewed as a disappointment.
The Clippers are currently without Paul George as he recovers from shoulder surgery and he isn’t expected back till the middle or end of November. Until he comes back it will be tough to figure out just how good this team can be but even without his presence, the Clippers have put the league on notice.
It’s only the first week of the season and we are still a long way away from the NBA Finals but the Clippers have to be impressed with how good the team has looked to start the season.
Big Wins Over Division Rivals
The Clippers opened the season with its first two games coming against division rivals. The opener was against the L.A. Lakers and it was the first meeting between the two favorites after both franchises went through big changes this offseason.
The Clippers looked like the better team in that game as they held the Lakers to 106.3 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass. They also saw Kawhi Leonard dominate just like he did during last year’s postseason as he finished with 30-6-5 while shooting 10-19 from the field.
The Clippers followed up the big win over their rival by embarrassing the defending Western Conference champs in their new arena.
L.A. shot over 62 percent from the field, over 56 percent from three as they cruised to a 141-122 victory. The Clippers were even able to rest Leonard for the entire fourth quarter as the Clippers led by as many as 31 in the second half.
It’s still early in the season but considering how dominant the Clippers looked in those wins and to consider they will be adding a player who was third in MVP voting last season, it should be scary to most teams at how good the Clippers might be.
Clippers Bench Leads The Way
A big reason that L.A. has started the season 2-0 with such impressive wins has been because of their bench play.
Led by three-time Sixth Man of the Year, Lou Williams, the Clippers bench averages 64.0 points per game. The 64.0 points lead the NBA as the next closest team is the New Orleans Pelicans who average 57.0.
The Clippers bench feature four players averaging at least 10.0 points per game with Williams leading the way at 21.5. Coming into the season the Clippers bench was viewed as a big reason why they were considered NBA title favorites as they have not disappointed.
The L.A. bench has been blistering when it comes to shooting the ball as they are shooting 61.8 percent from the field and 53.8 percent from three. It’s hard to see those numbers staying that high but if they can keep them similar to what they shot last season (47.8% FG, 35.4% 3FG) then the Clippers will be a tough out come playoff time.
The reigning NBA Finals MVP has been just as good as he was last season when he showed the world that he deserved to be considered the best player in the NBA.
With George out Leonard has taken up more responsibility on offense as he’s averaging a career-high in usage percentage at 39.3. Once George returns it should come down closer to the low 30s which is what he averaged with Toronto last season (30.0).
Leonard is also averaging 7.0 assist per game which is double his career-best of 3.5. It will be interesting to see once George returns if Kawhi continues to put up those numbers.
Leonard is already one of the game’s best players and it appears that he may be even better this season and that could be a big problem for the other 29 teams in the NBA.
The Clippers have NBA title aspirations this season and while it is still early in the season they have looked the part of NBA title favorites. Once George returns and the Clippers are able to play at full strength the NBA will see just how good this team can be. Until then Kawhi Leonard, Lou Williams, and a dominant bench will continue to impose their will on opponents.
Stats refelct games played by 10/25