Championship Odds: +300
Kawhi Leonard: 26.9 PTS, 7.3 REB, 5.0 AST, 1.8 STL
Paul George: 21.0 PTS, 5.7 REB, 3.9 AST, 1.3 STL
Lou Williams: 18.7 PTS, 3.1 REB, 5.7 AST, 0.7 STL
Montrezl Harrell: 18.6 PTS, 7.1 REB, 1.7 AST, 0.6 STL
Patrick Beverly: 7.9 PTS, 5.4 REB, 3.7 AST, 1.1 STL
Players Sitting Out
|7/30||Los Angeles Lakers||9:00 PM||TNT|
|8/1||New Orleans Pelicans||6:00 PM||ESPN|
|8/4||Phoenix Suns||4:00 PM||NBA TV|
|8/6||Dallas Mavericks||6:30 PM||TNT|
|8/8||Portland Trailblazers||1:00 PM||TNT|
|8/9||Brooklyn Nets||9:00 PM||NBA TV|
|8/12||Denver Nuggets||9:00 PM||ESPN|
|8/14||Oklahoma City Thunder||TBD||TBD|
If you followed the NBA at all this season, you know that the Clippers are in the elite tier of NBA teams and they have legit championship aspirations. Playing in the same city as LeBron’s Lakers, it would be easy for the Clippers to get overshadowed. However, it’s impossible to ignore the amazing season that they’re having. Led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers have proven that they’re just as good, if not better, than the Lakers and every other team in the NBA.
All great teams have superstar scorers, but what separates the Clippers from other great teams is that their core players all play defense at an elite level. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who average 1.8 steals per game and 1.3 steals per game respectively, are arguably the two best wing defenders in the whole NBA. It’s no secret that the Clippers’ main competition is the Lakers. If Leonard and George split time guarding LeBron, it will be very hard for LeBron, who is obviously the catalyst of the Lakers’ offense, to play at an elite level offensively. In the front court, Montrezl Harrell is a ferocious defender for the Clippers. He averages over a block a game and he welcomes the challenge of guarding players like Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo. If he contain players like Davis and Giannis the way he’s capable of, the Clippers are going to be tough to beat. Another great Clipper defender is Patrick Beverly, who simply makes life miserable for opposing point guards and players in general. On top of averaging over a steal a game, Beverly is great at getting inside the head of whoever he’s up against. When he’s on the floor, the defensive intensity is taken to another level. If there’s any truth to the saying “defense wins championships”, the Clippers are undoubtedly the favorites.
Regarding the Clippers-Lakers matchup, many NBA fans seem to think that when push comes to shove, LeBron is going to prevail. Everyone puts him in a tier above Kawhi and most people think that come playoff time, he won’t lose to the Clippers or anyone else. While LeBron is obviously an all-time great, let’s not ignore Kawhi’s greatness. At just 29 years old, Leonard already has two rings and was the Finals MVP both times. He’s an elite playoff performer and he isn’t going to back down to LeBron. The idea that LeBron is going to outclass Kawhi and the Clippers needs to stop.
I, like the majority of people, believe that the Western Conference Finals will be Clippers vs Lakers. Looking at the two rosters, they’re essentially even when it comes to talent level. To me, the difference maker is which team can consistently get stops, and this is where I think the Clippers have a huge advantage. In an era where defense is an afterthought, I think the Clippers will separate themselves from other great teams in the 2019-20 NBA Playoffs by valuing defense in a way that no one else does.