No one can deny the illustrious history of the Lakers franchise. Sixteen Championships are incredible, but it is in the past. To make a statement about the future, one cannot look to the past. The Clippers future is building more than just player banners to hang on Staples Center. LeBron James may be the best player in Los Angeles, but the LA Clippers look like a much better team in the present and with their future outlook. This article will outline four reasons why I believe the Clippers have a brighter future than the Lakers in Los Angeles.
They Took the Defending Champs to 6 Games
A majority of people believed the LA Clippers were going out in 4 games against this mastodon of a Golden State Warriors team. The LA Clippers believed in themselves when everybody else wrote them off. This Clippers squad led by the best bench duo statistically in NBA playoff history with Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell.
Per Basketball-Reference, Lou Williams averaged 21.7 ppg, and dished out a 7.7 apg per game in around 29 mpg. Meanwhile, Montrezl Harrell averaged 18.3 ppg, and snatched 5.5 boards in about 26 mpg. It doesn’t matter who starts an NBA game; it matters who finishes.
I don’t want to hear any jazz about the DeMarcus Cousins injury either. Hope the big man heals well, but the Warriors have four other proven all-stars in their lineup and a former finals MVP in Andre Iguodala. I believe at one point fans of 29 other NBA teams may have been rooting for and falling in love with this Clipper team. How can you not love an underdog? The most essential element is this team doesn’t quit. Per Andrew Greif of the LA Times, “The eighth-seeded Clippers, down as many as 31 points in the second half, had come all the way back, and then some. Silence no longer filled the arena. Instead, gasps. After free throws by Harrell and a missed heave at the buzzer, the Clippers emerged 135-131 winners after the largest comeback in playoff history.”
Oracle Arena was stunned as were millions watching at home and elsewhere. Doc Rivers called them “roaches” and roaches don’t go away easily.
The Lakers were nowhere to be seen because they missed the 2019 NBA playoffs. Many teams can blame injuries as a caveat for lack of success, but what ifs are pointless because we can’t know.
Both Teams Have Cap Space, But Stars Prefer The Clippers
Both teams have cap space, but do players want to play second fiddle to LeBron James? Paul George stayed in OKC instead of signing with the Lakers. LeBron James is 34 years old and as great as he’s been on the offensive side of the ball, his defense is ending up on Shaqtin-a-fool. The Lakers best shot is likely getting Anthony Davis by trading all their young assets and draft picks and possibly overpaying a player like Jimmy Butler in free agency. The Clippers have players like KD, Klay, and Kawhi realistically on their radar. Per Jack Baer of Yahoo Sports, A survey of several league executives this weekend had the Lakers trailing, even among Staples Center tenants, in the competition to get Leonard, with the LA Clippers universally being placed ahead of them. Rather than seeking to team up with James, the thinking is that Leonard would prefer to have control of his own team, which the Clippers would offer, while still giving him the ability to return to his native Southern California. However, ESPN’s Woj believes Kawhi Leonard is seriously considering remaining a Toronto Raptor for the foreseeable future.
“Kawhi Leonard just felt all along, it was going to take the full year to sell him on Toronto. It wasn’t going to be done in training camp or by Christmas or by the trade deadline. But I do think they’ve made progress with him. I do think they’ve made pretty good progress with him from the sense I have. They put themselves in it. And when Kawhi showed up there, I’m not sure he imagined any future in Toronto. I do think it’s a serious consideration now.”
Klay Thompson once was thought to be considering teaming up with LeBron seems to prefer the Clippers instead now. Of course, the Clippers as a backup plan if the Warriors do not meet his demand of a $190 Million max contract. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on Monday’s Get Up. “If they try to do anything less than that, you can expect Klay Thompson to be out in free agency. Watch not for the Lakers then, but the Clippers.”
The Clippers are at least positioning themselves in the race to get these top tier free agents. The LA Lakers seem to be getting caught up in a pool of their dysfunction. The separation between LeBron and the young guys on the Lakers are a cause for concern. Also, LeBron is aging and a groin injury forced him to miss a good chunk of the NBA season. LeBron only played 55 of the plausible 82 games for the Lakers. Partly due to their exit from playoff contention and the groin injury. As you get older, the human body takes a longer time to recover. The Lakers dysfunction in their front office is the most cause for concern. Magic Johnson stepped down, Luke Walton gets fired, and this Laker team underperformed this past season.
The Clippers have a great front office with Jerry West at the helm. Doc Rivers in the coaching slot is just as good as any coach in the league. Steve Ballmer could very well be the liveliest owner in the NBA.
The Clippers Have Picks, Picks, and More Picks.
Both teams have quite a stash of 1st and 2nd round draft picks. The difference is Jerry West is a much more competent basketball mind than Rob Pelinka. The Clippers rebuild has been tremendous and it has taken very little time. Since cutting loose from the shades of the Big 3 lob city era with Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan; the Clippers have transformed lob city into the It Takes Everything era and these assets the Clippers have gathered and they know what to do with them. While Pelinka and the Lakers likely continue to dangle their young assets and draft picks in trade talks for Anthony Davis in order to please Mr. James. Jerry West will continue stockpiling and thriving on the assets he has as the Clippers have picks and they have a competent front office. Jerry West’s role with the Clippers is Consultant, but he has his hands all over this franchise.
Per Shaun Powell of NBA.com writes “It all depends on what the Clippers — with West dropping knowledge in the back room — do with their money, assets, Draft picks and salary cap space this summer. And what does West say?
“We know we can be a player.”
The Clipper Team Has An Identity
All great teams or even good ones need a calling card. The Clippers play as a team with defensive grit and hustle. The Lakers still have yet to find their identity. If this is Showtime for them, then the curtains have already closed for any chance at a championship. The Clippers are like any Doc Rivers team relentless, defensive minded, and deep. I would be negligent not to mention guys like Jamychal Green, Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell who play a huge part in creating that defensive identity.
What is the Lakers calling card? Reportedly, Tyronn Lue is slated to become the next Lakers head coach. A coach that LeBron can push around. Now you go and trade a young center in Ivica Zubac for Mike Muscala who is a stretch five to appease LeBron. Traded a young guard in Svi Mykhailiuk and a second rounder for Reggie Bullock to appease LeBron. What are we building the Cleveland Cavaliers 2.0? Next, Pelinka going to appease LeBron by trading for Jr. Smith, Kevin Love and convincing Kyrie Irving to be a sidekick again. Probably not, but what is the big plan?. Hoping LeBron James body holds up. For the record, I am not a LeBron hater. I believe he is one of the best IQ’s we’ve ever seen in the NBA. Is LeBron still unanimously the Best player in the NBA? That is up for debate.
The Clipper’s front office decisions or coaching decisions are not dictated by a certain player. They play as a team. They have the best bench in the NBA. This is data you can verify.
Lakers fans can keep talking about banners that have no relevance if we are talking about the present. You begin to sound like Yankee’s fans, Cowboy’s fans, even Celtic’s fans bragging about the past. The past was great, but where is your future? The Clippers future lies in their identity, more players want to play there, they took the Warriors to 6 games, and they have a much more competent front office and coaching staff.