The Los Angeles Clippers are in deep trouble, falling 2-0 in the first round to the Dallas Mavericks. There were rumors that the Clippers purposely tanked the last 2 seasons on purpose to draw the Mavericks in the first round and avoid the Lakers. Whether that's true or not, it doesn't change the fact that the Clippers are losing to a team many thought they should be beating.
Following last year's collapse in the postseason, the Clippers are disappointing a lot of people and are becoming a laughing stock yet again. After all, the team has some big names in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George yet can't seem to play up to their level. While many fans are scratching their heads, the reason is that the Clippers are an overrated team, and here are the 5 reasons why.
5. Lack Of An Impactful Big Man
The Clippers do not have a single big man who can protect the rim, grab double-digit rebounds every night, and actually make an impact defensively. Ivica Zubac is a decent young center but he doesn't affect the game enough on both ends of the floor. He is averaging 9.0 PPG and 7.2 RPG this season, but that production isn't enough for a team that wants to win it all.
Against the Denver Nuggets last year, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray had field days in the paint. This year, Luka Doncic can drive to the basket anytime he wants without much resistance. Having a big man to protect the rim and haul in rebounds will give the Clippers much better defensive resistance because right now they have none.
4. An Empty Bench, Especially Without Lou Williams
The Clippers decided Lou Williams wasn't the answer for the team long term this season and traded him to the Atlanta Hawks in a bid to improve team chemistry. For whatever reason, the Clippers felt Williams wasn't doing his job in the locker room. But his absence, along with the loss of Montrezl Harrell at the start of the year, has left the Clippers empty without a bench.
The starters are built around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and when they aren't in the game, the bench production isn't enough for a team that wants to win it all. In comparison with the Lakers, their arch-rivals, the bench looks very weak. The Clippers had to rely on rookie Terrence Mann in Game 2 to play manor minutes, and there isn't anyone else who does the trick. Depth is key for contending teams but the Clippers are searching for answers outside of Leonard and George.
3. A Contender Without A Playmaker
Kawhi Leonard made it clear last year that they need a true playmaker. Derrick Rose was often mentioned, and he actually could have been the answer this year as he was in the running for the 6th Man of the Year Award. The Clippers tried their best with Rajon Rondo this year, who is a proven winner, but he isn't enough.
Rondo is 35 years old and didn't have enough time with the franchise to make enough of an impact. He doesn't know the spots his two star teammates like to receive the ball, and he certainly hasn't helped team chemistry. Rondo would have been a great option at the start of the year, but the Clippers still would've needed more. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard need a playmaker to organize the offense because right now, Patrick Beverley, Reggie Jackson, and Rajon Rondo are not the answers.
2. Leadership Is Missing... From The Stars And Head Coach
Kawhi Leonard proved he is one of the best small forwards of all time when he won his 2nd NBA championship and 2nd Finals MVP with the Raptors in 2019. No player in the game can shut down the perimeter as he can, and he is a special offensive player as well. But he isn't a natural leader. For years in San Antonio, he followed the lead of Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich without having to handle much pressure.
With Toronto, Leonard had veterans such as Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol to keep everyone in check while he focused on the game. With the Clippers, he isn't doing a great job as a leader and it's obvious with the way the team chemistry looks on the floor. After all, he is an extremely quiet person. That leads to Paul George, another great player who is mainly suited in a secondary role. Neither Leonard nor George have the leadership qualities on the court, but what about coach Tyrone Lue?
There are still questions about Lue's ability as a coach because many feel LeBron James gifted him the title in 2016. There is no doubt Lue knows the game and has shown the ability to make in-game adjustments, but he has not shown the leadership qualities that the Clippers need either. Without true leadership, "choke jobs" are more likely to happen and that is what we have been seeing over the past two years.
1. Terrible Team Chemistry For A Contender
The Clippers are a championship contender only because Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are such a dynamic duo on the perimeter. Leonard and George have a combined 12 All-Star Teams between them and are Hall of Fame-worthy two-way players. But that isn't enough for a team to win a championship. The rest of the team don't fight every possession for the sake of the team and that's a problem.
We saw how the Los Angeles Lakers role players play with heart because they know they can help LeBron James and Anthony Davis win the chip for them. Even the Miami Heat role players showed up last year to allow Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo to carry them to the Finals. The Clippers look like a bunch of free agents who are just seeing how things turn out, without a true connection on the floor.
Their offense against the Dallas Mavericks has looked like a Leonard and George show, and that will eventually take its toll on the defense. Without a commitment from the entire team on being on the same page, the Clippers will never win a championship.