The 2019/2020 NBA Playoffs is one of great ups and downs. From the NBA shut down due to COVID19 to the temporary strike by players due to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, the Playoffs are nothing short of drama.
Thankfully, the Playoffs are back in full swing and as we proceed into the Semifinals, it becomes clearer that the Los Angeles Clippers is one magnificent team that has all the necessary players, coaching staff, and best conditions to have a legitimate chance at fighting for the NBA Larry O’Brien trophy. Let us now analyze ten such crucial factors that might swing the winning odds in the Clippers’ favor.
10. Hustle Players
The Clippers have a collection of hustle players whom NBA professionals refer to as ‘junkyard dogs’, in a complimentary way. The Clippers players are all physically and mentally resilient players who play with a lot of passion, tenacity, and heart.
These players are smart in getting under the skin of opponents, ruffling some feathers, and putting the rivals out of their rhythm, a valuable trait come clutch Playoff moments.
9. Big Men
The writings are on the wall for a Western Conference Finals showdown between both Los Angeles teams. In order to compete with the big-men-dominant Lakers, the Clippers need to have sufficient bodies to box-out, combat for rebounds as well as defend.
The roster of Clippers has the luxury of several bodies to take turns to exert pressure on the Laker’s big men, Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, and JaVale McGee.
Former Defensive Player of the Year and a fierce foe of LeBron James, Joakim Noah provides the defensive spark. Montrezl Harrell possesses the quickness of guards, toughness of a big man defender, and physicality of a center.
8. Deepest Bench
Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Joakim Noah, Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson, Landry Shamet, and JaMychal Green are all quality bench players.
At any single night, you can never expect the production from them and they are known to outscore the opponent starters when they get hot. This poses a significant headache to coaches of their opponents because the rotations are endless.
Kawhi Leonard has the basketball IQ, defensive brilliance, footwork, and big hands to harass the likes of Anthony Davis, as shown by his success against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid last year. Marcus Morris gives the Clippers a pesky and intense defender who can throw a few technical fouls or irritate any player who is going hot.
7. Load Management
Beginning of the season, the Clippers were getting scrutinized, criticized, and chastised for skiving. Their marquee players, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard took turns to rest and skip games under the excuse of ‘load management’. So much so that it became a taboo in the NBA because fans were getting frustrated for paying high ticket prices to a Los Angeles Clippers game only not to see their stars play a regular-season game.
However, as the season progresses and injuries pile up for the NBA, general managers and coaches are kicking themselves for not following suit. Plus the few months of NBA shut down due to COVID19, the Clippers now enjoyed rejuvenation and rehabilitation beyond an entire offseason. That gives the team a dangerous edge as their stars carry less mileage than other Playoff teams’ stars do.
6. More Than One Clutch Player
When the scoreline is close and the game is on the line, the Clippers have multiple players who can create, make plays or close out the game. Kawhi Leonard is one of the league’s best, as evidenced by his epic buzzer-beating game seven-shot last season that sent Joel Embiid’s 76ers team packing.
Paul George is another top ten players who can deliver in clutch moments. Of course, the Clippers also have the ‘Super Sub’, Lou Williams who can single-handedly pour buckets.
5. Jerry West
No one can deny what a basketball savant the NBA logo, Jerry West, is. As a player, he was a Hall of Famer with the famous Los Angeles Lakers, forming a formidable trio with Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor.
Jerry was a legendary player who had won on all stages, from NBA championship to All-Star Most Valuable Player to Finals Most Valuable Player to scoring champion and assists champion to gold medals for both Olympic Games and Pan American games. As an executive, Jerry won NBA Executive of the Year twice and bagged an incredible eight NBA championships as an executive.
With all the wisdom and basketball IQ crystallized into a fine gentleman like Jerry West, his presence in Los Angeles Clippers as an advisor during this current run will definitely be a superb boost to their confidence, experience, pedigree as well as strategic delivery throughout the Playoffs. Just take a look at what Jerry did to the Golden State Warriors when he was an advisor there, he literally turned the franchise around with his strategic directions and organization moves. The Clippers will definitely be heavily aided beyond the rest of the other teams.
4. Peaking At The Right Time
Before the NBA bubble, pundits and fans were worried the Clippers had too little time as a fully healthy squad and lacked the chemistry of a championship team. Little did they know that the health and chemistry of the Clippers will only keep taking an upward trajectory without stoppage.
Thanks to the right amount of push, pull and extremely smart coaching decisions, the entire team is beginning to peak at the opportune time, when it really matters. Each Playoff game sees every player struggle, learn, and fulfill their potential gradually. Each series sees the team gel more, play more in-sync, and allow the offense and defense to flow more smoothly. What is dangerous is, the Clippers are not done peaking.
3. Championship Coaches
Head coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers is an NBA champion with the legendary 2008 ‘Big Three’ Boston Celtics team.
In his coaching staff roster, there are several other assistant coaches who carry championship experience as well. Below are a few of them:
Tyronn Lue needs no introduction. He won the epic 2016 NBA championship with LeBron James and the amazing Cleveland Cavaliers team who completed the comeback after being down 1-3 to the Golden State Warriors.
Sam Cassell is a three-time champion with Houston Rockets (1994 and 1995) and Boston Celtics (2008). A crafty and tenacious point guard, Sam can surely bring his winning ways to influence the team.
Armond Hill is one assistant coach who bagged a championship with Doc Rivers as his assistant coach in the 2008 Boston Celtics team.
Jeremy Castleberry is another unique champion. He is a close friend of Kawhi Leonard and the two had played on the same team in high school and San Diego State University.
Jeremy earned his first championship working as a coaching staff with the San Antonio Spurs’ G-League affiliate, the Austin Spurs, and then the main club as a video coordinator and player development executive. Jeremy followed Kawhi to Toronto Raptors during the big trade, where he became a player development coach, earning his second championship.
2. Great Understanding Of LeBron James
A low key specialty of the Los Angeles Clippers is the way it is constructed to be the nemesis of a team led by LeBron James.
First off, assistant coach Tyronn Lue was the former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach and he knows all of LeBron’s strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, and habits. That is vital in devising a solid game plan against the Lakers.
Second, head coach Doc Rivers has had many battles against LeBron and seen the way LeBron makes his team better. Since his days in Boston Celtics, coach Doc has accumulated numerous tough game experiences and is now more prepared to handle the plays of the King.
Thirdly, there are Clippers players who had met LeBron James in the Playoffs, with success in the past. Kawhi Leonard had notably slain the Miami Heat team with LeBron. Joakim Noah had great battles against the King when he was in Chicago Bulls. Paul George had pushed LeBron to a good competition as an Indiana Pacers player.
1. Top Defense
All season long, the Clippers have stayed within the top echelon in all defensive categories. As their roster starts reaching its 100%, this stifling defense is sure going to build a strong moat for their championship push.
The Clippers rank fifth in NBA Team Defensive Efficiency, with a statistic of 1.047. The Clippers also house three of the top twenty best perimeter defenders – Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Patrick Beverley – forming the three-headed monster to tackle the trendy ‘small ball’ line-ups from any team.
Kawhi made five All-Defensive selections out of the seven full seasons he last played, making three first teams. His big hands make him a nightly threat for making clutch steals.
In addition, one key Clippers perimeter defender and one key Clippers post defender show elite numbers overall. Patrick Beverley is 13th and Ivica Zubac is 27th across the entire NBA in terms of NBA Real Plus-Minus. This is incredible to have two players on the same team to be top thirty.
This statistic demonstrates three key figures – (1) estimated on-court impact on team offensive performance, measured in points scored per 100 offensive possessions (2) estimated on-court impact on team defensive performance, measured in points allowed per 100 offensive possessions (3) estimate of the number of wins each player has contributed to his team’s win total on the season.
As you can now see, the Clippers are currently sitting in rare the basketball pedigree stratosphere and with good health, some luck and great execution, this year’s championship might actually become a reality for the team.