Where do the LA Clippers go from here? Don’t make any drastic moves, keep tinkering the roster, and run in back and pray that Kawhi and PG can stay healthy.
Back in 2019, on July 24th, the LA Clippers hosted a press conference to officially welcome Kawaii Leonard and Paul George to the Clippers franchise.
That 2018-19 blue-collar Clips team, led by a rag-tag bunch of veterans like Tobias Harris, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Pat Beverley, and Danilo Gallinari and coached by Doc Rivers, managed to push the top-seeded Golden State Warriors to a tough six-game series.
Then, they managed to add the reigning Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George who was coming off the best year of his career, finishing third in MVP voting behind only Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden.
The future was looking brighter than ever for a Clippers franchise that sat in the backseat to the Los Angeles Lakers their entire existence.
There was optimism that this new combo of Kawhi and PG could spark a greater interest in the Clippers and maybe, just maybe, take over the city of LA for a brief moment in NBA history.
Three years later, that optimism has turned into panic for Clippers fans.
In the first season of the Kawhi and PG pairing, the Clips finished the regular season as the second seed in the Western Conference. It seemed like destiny that they would advance to the Conference Finals and face-off against the big bad Los Angeles Lakers who were the top seed in the West.
Well, the basketball gods had different plans as the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets and lost in embarrassing fashion.
To make matters worse, their biggest rival — the Lakers — went on to win the Championship and prove once again that the Clippers will never supplant the purple and gold in LA.
That Clippers collapse is one of, if not, the biggest playoffs blunders in NBA history. Doc Rivers got fired because of it and a few tinkers were made to the roster.
The following season — 2020-21 regular season — the Clippers finished as the fourth seed in the West. Not as good as the year prior, but they still had championship aspirations.
After surviving a grueling seven-game series against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, the Clips managed to reach the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. They gave the Phoenix Suns all that they could handle but ended up going down in six.
The Clips did most of this without the services of Kawhi Leonard who tore his ACL in Game 4 of the Western Semi’s against the Utah Jazz.
Some fans and media members alike think if Kawhi was healthy during that entire postseason run that the Clips would have done more than just reach the Western Conference Finals. But the fact is they didn’t.
Other than the playoff collapse to the Nuggets, injuries have been the biggest problem with the Clippers since Kawhi and PG came to LA.
In his three seasons with the Clippers, Kawhi has played in 133 of the Clippers’ 236 games (postseason included). PG has been a little more available, playing in 165 of the possible 236 games.
The most damning stat is that Kawhi and PG have been on the court together for just 80 regular-season games. That’s not even an entire season!
Steve Balmer and the Clippers didn’t sign up for their two stars to play together in just 35% of their regular-season games over three years. So, looking back on all that the front office gave up to land Kawhi and PG and with the knowledge we have now, would you still do the deal if you’re the Clippers? Absolutely!
That may be a “hot take” but all it takes is one. One championship is all it takes for this pairing to have been deemed a success.
Just look at the Lakers and what they have done since acquiring LeBron. The first year they missed the playoffs. During the second year, they acquired Anthony Davis and won the championship in the bubble. During the third year, they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Phoenix Suns. And the fourth year, this past season, the Lakers not only missed the playoffs, but they also didn’t even make the play-in tournament. But, with that being said, they still won a championship, and that one championship is all that matters.
Looking ahead to next year, with Kawhi hopefully back to 100 percent, PG back in full swing, new additions in Norman Powell and Robert Covington having had a full offseason to acclimate to their new home, and possible free-agent signings and trades, the Clippers will be one of the favorites to win it all next season. That is, if they can stay healthy, which has been their Achilles heel in the Kawhi-PG era.
So where do the Clippers go from here? They don’t make any drastic offseason moves in trading Paul George or Kawhi. They keep tinkering with the roster to better suit their two stars, they run in back and pray to the basketball gods that Kawhi and PG can stay healthy.
If they both can stay healthy, if is a big if, then the Clippers will be legitimate title contenders next season and will have a good shot of bringing the franchise its first-ever world championship