Overall Team Performance
The Clippers were †an extremely well-rounded team and that shows in the numbers they were able to put up on both sides of the court. Offensively, they ranked 4th in the NBA in points per game (116.2 PPG) and 3rd in offensive rating (113.6). The Clippers were able to put up these top of the line numbers will playing at a high pace as well. They sat in the top-10 in pace (8th) which estimates the average offensive possessions a team has per game.
Los Angelesí offensive success was due to excelling in a few areas but overall not really having any true weak spots. Two big strengths that led them to be a top-5 scoring offensive in the league was their team rebounding and ability to get to the line. The Clippers attempted the most free throws per game in the entire NBA (26.2 attempts per game) while shooting an efficient 79% from the line which was good enough for 8th in the league. As for the glass, they were able to pull down 11 offensive rebounds per game and 48 total rebounds per game which put them in the top-5 in both categories.
As I mentioned prior, they really didnít have any true areas of weakness. They ranked in the top half of the league in virtually every offensive statistic of weight. These categories include field goal percentage and 3-point percentage which they ranked 11th and 10th respectively. These arenít gaudy rankings by any means but shows the balance of their offense.
The only categories in which they were outside the top-15 in assists and turnovers per game which they still were able to stay out of the bottom third of the NBA in these categories. They clocked in at 19th and 16th when it came to APG and TPG. This shows that they could improve their ball movement, but it also is a product of the fact that they were one of the most isolation heavy teams in the league. The Clippers ranked 7th in isolation possessions per game and percentage of plays coming out of isolation sets.
Key Individual Performance
The Clippers boasted several impressive seasons by individuals. Obviously, Leonard and George were huge parts of their offense but they both missed chunks of game. Kawhi was 5th on the team in games played (51 GP) while George was all the way down at 11th (42 GP).
Leonard and PG both once again put up impressive seasons, Kawhi especially. Leonard was able to notch career highs in points per game, assists per game, and matched his career-high in rebounds per game. While George was still able to score 20+ points a game and shot an impressive 40% from deep he had somewhat of a down year compared to what we expect from him. PG saw regressions in basically every major statistical category but that can be attributed to sporadic playing time on a new team. It was his first time not being selected to the all-star, but he still had a solid year in general.
LAC had a great supporting cast behind their superstars including two potential 6th man of the year candidates. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell were dominant off the bench both averaging over 18 points per game. Williams was able to put up similar numbers to his past two seasons which he has won 6th man of the year in both while Harrell continued his development as a uber-talented big.
Harrell has really his stride since becoming a Clipper three years ago. This season, he was able to put up career highs in minutes per game, points per game, total rebounds per game, and offensive rebounds per game.
Behind the Clippers big four scorers the rest of the roster took more of a back seat offensively. Landry Shamet, Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac, and JaMychal Green were provided the most production behind the core four scorers.
Overall Team Performance
Doc Rivers has always put a focus on his teamís performance on the defensive end and this year ís Clippers are no exception. Their roster is filled with talented defenders and was able to show that with their production. They allowed a surprisingly high 109.7 points per game, which ranked 13th in the NBA but they did so with a very good defensive rating of 107.2 (5th in the NBA).
When it comes to the glamourous defensive stats the Clippers didnít exactly excel. They sat in the bottom half in both steals per game (24th) and blocks per game. Specifically, they only recorded 7 steals and 5 blocks per game. These numbers are concerning but the Clippers made up for it by preventing high percentage shots.
Los Angeles excelled at contesting shots and limiting opponent's open looks. This is apparent from their opponents' shooting percentages. They held opposing teams to 43.6% from the field and 34% from deep which were both top-3 marks in the entire league. These great marks show just how good the Clippers were defensively. The Clippers were also able to limit effective ball movement allowing an 8th best 23 assists per game
Two last areas of weakness defensively would be opponentís offensive rebounding and free throw chances. Clippersí opponents hauled in 11 offensive rebounds a game and shot 25 free throws a game which were both the 6th worst rates in the league. Luckily opposing teams shot a poor 76% from the line against LAC and they made up for the poor prevention of opponents offensive rebounding by dominating their own offensive glass.
While looking at the overall defensive statistic it may seem like the Clippers werenít a top of the line defensive team, but these numbers are deceiving. LAC was able to be extremely effective in the most important area which is limiting shot-making. In their case, all you need to look at is how effective they were at keeping opponents shooting percentage low.
Key Individual Performances
As I mentioned above, the combination of Doc Rivers coaching and having multiple elite level defenders led to a top tier defensive ball club. The Clippers had 3 players in Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Patrick Beverley that have multiple all-defensive team selections. These three anchored an effective defensive unit along with other solid defenders next to them.
Montrezl Harrell, JaMychal Green, and eventually Marcus Morris all showed that they were above average defenders. It doesnít hurt that Doc Rivers was coaching this squad that was loaded with great individual defenders including the former defensive player of the year Kawhi.
As I discussed earlier when it comes to the individual defensive stats that people look at first, steals and blocks, the Clippers didnít exactly excel. Even with this, there was still multiple individuals that put up respective numbers. Kawhi, Paul George, Beverley, and Harkless (prior to him being traded) were all able to put up over a steal a game with Leonard averaging just under two a game. In terms of rim protection, Harrell and Zubac were their main contributors averaging a combined 2 blocks per game.
Doc Rivers is undoubtedly still one of the best coaches in the NBA. He has proved over his past 20+ years as a head coach that he is as good as they come. There was some criticism over his tenure with the Clippers in regard to struggles in the playoffs but think he is a great fit for the current roster. Doc has dealt with superstars throughout his entire coaching career and I believe he could lead this team to the Western Conference finals which eluded his lob city Clippers teams.
They Clippers had a successful 2019-2020 regular season and are poised to repeat that success next year. They already have the majority of their core locked up for next year, sans Montrezl Harrell, and proved this year that they are one of the most talented teams around.
I believe that they will benefit extremely from having a year under their belt with Leonard and George. The two now have experience playing together and with the rest of the unit which will only improve throughout next season. Also, when it comes to Harrell potentially leaving, I doubt the Clippers let him walk which I will get into in the questions portion. Expect the Clippers to be right back in the top-2 of the Western Conference next season.
Will the Clippers be able to beat the Lakers in a playoff series?
This season has shown that the battle for Los Angeles is as hotly contested as itís ever been. Both teams playing out of the city Angels were able to finish as the top-2 teams in their Conference which makes a potential playoff matchup down the line incredibly intriguing.
Both the Clippers and the Lakers boast two absolute stars in the league respectively in LeBron James and Anthony Davis for the Lakers and Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for the Clippers. The Lakers seem to have the more proven duo as James and Davis were the NBAís most dominant duo this year, but Leonard and George could very much make it an argument once they are both healthy together.
I believe the Clippers are built very well to combat the Lakers in a playoff series. While it is hard to argue against the dominance of the Lakers big two, I believe the Clippers undoubtedly have the better supporting cast behind their two stars. While the Lakers have solid depth, the Clippers' depth is unmatched. LAC bench mob is arguably the best in the league thanks to Williams and Harrell.
Personally, I would favor the Clippers in a playoff series as long as they are healthy but that is obviously a big if. I hope we see these two squads face each other in a Western Conference finals because it would be incredible to see to Los Angeles teams go at it in what would shape up to be an incredibly competitive playoff series.
5 Roster Questions
How large is the risk of losing Montrezl Harrell in free agency?
Montrezl Harrell will be a free agent this offseason coming off the best season of his 5-year NBA career. Harrell will definitely have many suitors which makes me wonder how worried should the Clippers be about losing him? I think it is unanimous that bringing Harrell back should be LACís number one priority as the rest of their roster mostly in place.
The Clippers are already nearing next seasonís salary cap of $115 million but still have some wiggle room with the hard cap sitting at $139 million. Harrell is projecting to fetch around $18-20 million per year on the open market which the Clippers should be able to meet. I expect to see him back in LA next season.
Will the Clippers try and bring back Marcus Morris?
Marcus Morris was a trade deadline addition for the Clippers and fits their culture and style of play perfectly. He didnít shoot the ball too well through the 12 games he played with LAC, but his track record and defensive mentality will make him a sought-after free agent this offseason.
It has been rumored that the Clippers want to bring Morris back, but it will be interesting to see his value. Morris made $15 million this year but he will need to be willing to take a pay reduction to play for the championship-caliber Clippers.
How will their lack of draft capital affect their roster long term?
The Clippers gave up a huge haul of draft capital to land Paul George. It is hard to argue against acquiring a proven star, but it begs the question of whether it was worth potentially jeopardizing their future to some extent. They gave up 4 future 1st round picks along with a conditional pick and multiple pick swaps. I think it will be a positive move overall but if George underperforms it has the potential of backfiring.
Is there a major roster need that needs to be addressed this offseason?
As it stands now, the Clippers are as complete of a team as it comes. In my eyes, their number one priority should be bringing back Montrezl Harrell. Once they get him locked up, they can turn their eyes to resigning Marcus Morris and from there they can identify further needs.
After addressing their impending free agents, the one area of need they could improve is adding a true rim protector. Neither Harrell nor Zubac excels at this and the Clippers could benefit from adding a cheap shot blocker. They could also serve to benefit from signing another shooter on a minimum deal.
Do the Clippers have any potential trade candidates under contract?
With the Clippers having a lot of their roster under contract for next season there are some potential trade candidates. I believe that the Clippers should look to move Rodney McGruder. He didnít offer much in terms of production this season and his $5 million salary could be allocated towards resigning Harrell and/or Morris.