How quickly a team's outlook can change.
The Los Angeles Clippers looked dead in the water in the race for Kawhi Leonard, seemingly stuck behind the rival Lakers and the Toronto Raptors for the Finals MVP's services. That all changed overnight when the Clippers not only convinced Leonard to sign with them but also landed Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Unsurprisingly, the Clippers' title odds have jumped drastically, though there are still questions regarding the franchise's on-court composition.
Clippers' projected depth chart
|C||Ivica Zubac||Montrezl Harrell|
|PF||Moe Harkless||Mfiondu Kabengele|
|SF||Kawhi Leonard||Rodney McGruder|
|SG||Paul George||Landry Shamet|
|PG||Patrick Beverley||Lou Williams|
As it currently stands, the rotation will focus on allowing Leonard and George to dominate offensively, likely in isolation sets, while allowing Lou Williams to control the tempo as a combo guard off the bench. Montrezl Harrell could very well continue his bench role as a spark plug alongside the reigning Sixth Man of the Year.
Patrick Beverley is the logical starting point guard despite his deficiencies as a playmaker. His ability to defensively fluster the opposition helped him secure a three-year, $40-million deal to return to L.A. Adding low-risk options Moe Harkless and Ivica Zubac to that rotation gives the Clippers a formidable front-court, with the former being a potential 3-and-D power forward despite his regression from the perimeter (he shot 41.5 percent in 2017-18 and 27.5 percent in 2018-19).
Besides Williams and Harrell, Landry Shamet will be a key reserve for the Clippers and Rodney McGruder's role will be interesting to dissect after he started in 112 of 162 games over three seasons with the Miami Heat. The lack of size in the current rotation, however, may impact their rim protection.
Enter rookie big man Mfiondu Kabengele. The 6-foot-10 center has the potential to be the missing link if he's able to replicate the impact he had in his breakout sophomore season with Florida State. He's built similarly to Harrell but should provide more significant defensive impact at the rim and has proven he can be a valuable shooter from deep.
Kabengele's 2018-19 Stats
If the Clippers are still concerned about their lack of playmaking with no reliable pure point guard on the roster, they'll need to scour the shallow remains of the free-agent market for a cheap option. The concern stems from George and Leonard's weakness as passers - their primary focus is three-level scoring.
Remaining point guard options
Jerian Grant is an interesting option as a big and efficient playmaker; he has a career 3-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and most notably completed the 2017-18 season with an excellent 4.6 assists and 1.2 turnovers per contest.
|Position||Starter||Reserve 1||Reserve 2|
|C||Ivica Zubac||Montrezl Harrell||Ekpe Udoh|
|PF||Moe Harkless||Mfiondu Kabengele|
|SF||Kawhi Leonard||Rodney McGruder||Terance Mann|
|SG||Paul George||Landry Shamet||Jerome Robinson|
|PG||Patrick Beverley||Lou Williams||Jerian Grant|
Games are rarely won in the first quarter, and the Clippers will value having the ideal closing lineup - something they should have no difficulty piecing together given their high-level scoring.
Clippers' closing lineup
The isolation-heavy closing lineup has a strong combination of floor spacing, excellent rebounding, and elite defense. There's little doubt the Clippers have finally turned the corner to become a legitimate title contender as long as they stay healthy for the playoffs. Though "load management" could play a significant role, the Clippers should be looking at close to 60 wins next season - along with the chance to battle their in-city rival for the Western Conference crown.