Well, the 2020 NBA Playoffs are upon us. With its Disney Bubble premise in full effect, the 16 teams are squaring off to determine this year’s champion. While it’s hard to think that there won’t be an asterisk next to the 2020 title, a champion will be crowned.
The NBA is a fickle beast. Star-driven and tank-friendly, teams in the dumpster one year can be the king of the mountain the next. With that, stakes are high for almost every team as they make their playoff run, with sought-after stars often heading for greener pastures if they feel their squad can’t get over the hump.
We’re looking at each of the NBA playoff contenders and diving into what’s at stake for each team, the odds of making a deep run, and key storylines to watch.
Let’s hit the Los Angeles Clippers.
Los Angeles Clippers
Expectations: 2020 NBA Champions
The Los Angeles Clippers are all-in to win a championship in the next two seasons. The team traded their first round pick in 2022/2024/2026, pick swaps in 2023/2025, Miami’s first round picks in 2021/2023 and a young star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to OKC for Paul George. The team is under a tremendous amount of pressure to win a trophy they can point to if Kawhi Leonard and/or George leave next summer and the team becomes a basement dweller with no assets for the next decade.
What’s Working for Them
In a league where team success is typically associated with having the best player on the floor, the Clippers have to feel confident vs. any opponent.
Leonard completed the all-time mercenary season last year by leading the Raptors to a championship. While the West is a bigger challenge for Leonard, George is better than any of his Raptors teammates.
The Clippers also prioritized getting healthy for the playoffs (they didn’t know they’d have a four month break due to a global pandemic) instead of going for the #1 spot in the West. They still were able to secure the two seed and have not seemed to reach their full potential yet. Scary thought for other teams.
What Might Hold Them Back:
It likely shouldn’t have been Clippers in 4 or 5, but the performance of the Mavericks and Luka through the first four game make an upset VERY plausible.
A major factor here has been the Clippers not being at full strength, and this has been an issue all season. As mentioned, the team made health and rest the priority in-season, which resulted in limited games/minutes at full-force. Even in the bubble, three key role players in Montrez Harrell, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams have all been missing at times.
The team might have the highest ceiling in the league, but expecting it will all just come together as it should when they need it most is a risk.
Also, acting like they have been there before when they haven’t is an issue.
This team has acted like they somehow shared in Leonard’s accomplishments last season. However, the Clippers lost to the Warriors in the first round last year, while George’s Thunder fell to the Blazers. Confidence is an advantage in playoff match-ups, but false confidence can be a downfall.
Storyline to Watch
There are a lot of legacies on the line with this team.
Can Kawhi win a title for a third team? What if he bests LeBron/AD in the WCF to do so?
Where would Doc Rivers rank among all-times coaches if he wins a second title?
Is Paul George a Hall of Famer if he wins a title as the #2 guy? Or how is he viewed if the Clippers lose to the Mavs after George scored 9 points in Game 4?
Would the Clippers ever recover as a franchise if Leonard and George leave next summer without winning a championship?
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