Love The Clippers, Dammit!

I truly feel bad for Clipper fans. They’re most competitive era coincided with the rise of the Golden State Warriors, and as the years went on the team grew more unlikeable as each opportunity slipped away. A year later, they possess one of the most intriguing rosters in all of the NBA, yet no one talks about them and I’m sure no one in Los Angeles cares anymore. Lakers Fever has retaken the city and likely will not relinquish its stranglehold for many years. The Clippers could win 50 games, coinciding with a Lakers tank job and everyone will be more transfixed on the Lakers position in the lottery.

Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is just as good as Lakers sophomore Lonzo Ball. SGA is the same height, but has the superior wingspan (6’11”). Once attaining the role of starter at Kentucky, SGA proceeded to average 16.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.7 assists, on 48/37/79 splits. Kentucky was packed to the brim in 5-Star talent, forcing SGA to fight for his spot as John Calipari did not field a team with a traditional point guard or any spacing. Whereas, Ball was the focal point of everything UCLA did on offense. Of course, SGA isn’t nearly the finished at the rim Ball is. Ball made nearly 80% of his attempts at the rim his lone season at UCLA; his debut pro season that percentage fell all the way down to 43.6%, But I’m willing to believe Ball will improve in time.

That being said, SGA is an elite slasher, his finishing at the rim reminiscent of Rajon Rondo at his best. Careening into the basket almost recklessly, his finger-rolls softly kissing the backboard before falling gracefully through the net. When SGA gets that first step the play is basically over.

Both L.A teams have a nice basket of young talent, the Lakers Brandon Ingram being the best of them. Luke Walton is generally regarded as an above-average head coach, despite not yet posting a winning record and played his young guys into the ground to end the year, causing Ball’s knees to weaken to the point where he needed surgery on his meniscus this July. For all his pratfalls as a general manager, Doc Rivers is a fine head coach who can lead a team providing he’s protected from himself and his habits of relying on old veterans.

Well, there won’t be many ways Rivers could do that with this collection of solid athletes that haven’t began the back-nine of their careers. Marcin Gortat is projected to be their oldest starter, 33. The veterans are dynamic scorer Lou Williams, by his side a lockdown perimeter defender in Avery Bradley; and when he inevitably gets hurt either gifted facilitator Milos Teodosic will take over, or rookie Jerome Robinson out of Boston College. Robinson will likely be a shooting guard version of the power forward Kuzma, not much of a defender, can’t do anything else besides score, but Robinson can do so at all three levels. The comparisons to him and C.J McCollum aren’t blasphemous, I swear to you!

If SGA’s development on offense is for real, the backcourt of him and Lou Will can torch opposing defenses without mercy. The Clippers want to move on with the youth movement, but have an All-Star locked under contract in Williams for 4-years and made an attempt to retain forward Tobias Harris on an $80 million extension just a couple weeks ago. They’re somewhat conflicted as to where they want to go, and do have too many quality players vying for minutes. The rotation may not become crystal clear until after the All-Star break.

If Bradley and Milos are out of the rotation because of a trade or injury, the Clippers arguably be better off giving more minutes to Robinson or Sindarius Thornwell, who averaged 14 points in Summer League. It’s quite funny to think if the Clippers were an eastern conference team and went forward with the youth movement they’d still be fringe playoff contenders.

One of the reasons for this is veteran big man Gortat, who’ll probably have the best year of his career on both ends now that he won’t have to guard out of his position to make up for former teammate John Wall’s inability to play the opposite end of the floor. He may set tons of illegal screens, but they’re affective. Last year his points per possession on the pick-and-roll as the roll-Man was an average 0.88. I believe he can get that up to 0.95. The backcourt talent is just too good and the space will be superior to what the Wizards could carve out on the floor.

The Clippers have the best roster of the two Los Angeles based basketball teams. No one will pay any attention to them, despite fielding promising prospects and fringe All-Star candidate veterans. And that’s a shame.Yes 

Wizards/Clippers: All Upside

In a span of 365 days the Jerry West regime in Los Angeles washed away nearly all remnants of the “Roc Divers” era, leaving just its head coach. 25-year-old shooting guard Austin Rivers was swapped with 34-year-old center Marcin Gortat of the Washington Wizards in a pretty simplistic deal that’ll also have serious team-building ramifications for Los Angeles and probably raises the ceiling for the Wizards significantly.

The parade of bottom of the barrel guards tasked with keeping the team’s offense afloat while primary creators John Wall and Bradley Beal simultaneously hit the bench more than failed. Brandon Jennings, Tim Frazier and Jodie Meeks are the laughingstock of the NBA. Rivers at least provides a scorer off the catch and shoot, averaging 39.3% on C&S on a Clippers team with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin; 36.1% in a season with constant roster upheaval. Rivers is an average starter likely to play the reserve role and should thrive when Wall is on the bench if Scottie Brooks staggers him with Beal as the offense has more flow without such a ball-dominate Wall on the floor.

If LeBron leaves the conference the Wizards can get away with playing Otto Porter at the power forward spot and Markieff Morris at center the conference will be so small at the wing besides Boston. If fallen for this before. The Wizards have made me pay for trusting them in the past and I’m about to make the same mistake.

As for the Clippers this all but assures DeAndre Jordan his days in Los Angeles are numbered. Gortat is older, but still a starter in this league and comes at a cheaper price. Jordan’s trade value is also noticeably hirer despite being on the back nine of his career and is a traditional center in a league that makes a living running them off the floor. Ironically, Washington is the best home for Jordan as Wall is begging his team to upgrade the center spot for someone more athletic.

This frees up the rotation for younger guards like lottery picks Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerome Robinson, returning players like the veteran Patrick Beverly and prospects Jawun Evans and Tyrone Wallace. I don’t count Milos Teodosic because it seems the team doesn’t want him and will either look to offload him for at least a second-rounder or just buy him out. Either way, having Rivers is just a roadblock for players the team is better off playing.

Their roster is made up of mainly solid players that can lead them to 39 to 43 wins, likely not enough for a playoff appearance in the west. However, if they can trade Jordan for Harrison Barnes or one more above-average starting forward then my projections of them have changed. But that’s not what their trying to do. In some ways they’re at a crossroads, they’re too talented to tank and the coach doesn’t want to.

Overall this is a solid transaction for both sides. No one got fleeced. No one got one over on the other. It’s a fair 50/50 deal. Not many times you can say that.

Clippers: B-
Wizards: B+