Free Agency season is over. Pre-Season is over. Open Practice is over. Time for the real season to finally start! But, are there concerns in Clippers camp?
I had the pleasure of attending The Clippers Open Practice at The Galen Center this past Tuesday. I needed my five year old daughter to be fully sold on the acquisition of Kawhi that I had been talking about since we traded Tobias Harris last season. Ever try explaining the NBA salary cap to a five year old? You need to work fast because the attention span is expiring the moment you open your mouth. “See there’s only so much money a team has, and although Tobi is good, we want to give that money to Kawhi Leonard who is BETTER….aaaand I lost you. Let’s put on Baby Shark.” Kawhi was physically imposing and impressive, no wasted movement. Lou is a walking bucket and Terrance Mann is going to contribute right away.
The many reasons to be confident and excited this season have been well documented, there are countless articles about that. What I want to talk about are my concerns now that I’ve watched training camp, saw them in person, and watched them finish 0-3 against NBA competition in the pre-season. We all know pre-season records mean nothing but I did see a few things I’d like to air out, in case Doc, Lawrence, and Michael Winger are LA Peach Basket readers:
The Clips have only one 7 footer in Ivaca Zubac. The 22 year old by most accounts is projected to start and protect the rim. I like this kid, he works hard and has a soft touch around the rim. I liked him and his potential when he played for that other team so I was thoroughly surprised when we fleeced Magic for him last year. (Remember when Magic quit on the last game of the season last year without telling anyone but the media at Staples lol, God bless him…now he could tweet freely!)
But there is not a lot of height behind him. Moe Harkless and JaMychael Green go 6’9” and Trezz is 6’8”. I know Trezz PLAYS like a 7 footer but he’s not. Its asking a lot of those four to compete with the bigger, more imposing front lines in the NBA. Rebounding could be a serious issue. In our three pre-season games against NBA competition we were out rebounded in all of them, we got crushed on the boards by The Nuggets and Mavericks especially. I know the roster we start the season with won’t be the same we end the season with but this is probably my #1 concern heading into Tuesday. If The Clippers are not taking advantage on the other end with quickness and shooting, this disadvantage can translate into losses quickly.
Everyone knows this Clippers roster doesn’t have a true Point Guard anymore (*looks at my Shai Gilgeous-Alexander jersey* *starts singing Whitney Houston’s I will Always Love You*). Anyone and everyone makes the trade we made July 5th to get Kawhi and PG. That kind of skill, size, and talent on the wing are worth paying the kind of price we paid to OKC. The downside to that trade is giving up SGA and being left to see who will handle the ball and play make in the half court. Kawhi will draw natural attention on the wing and is an underrated play-maker. His 11 minutes against Denver in his pre-season debut was enough for him to get a game high 6 assists, finding Trezz on a bounce pass pick and roll, Zubac over the top on a pick and roll slip, and drawing 4 defenders in the paint before kicking out to shooters. Paul George is also a willing passer, as he averaged a career high 4.1 assists last year. The Underground GOAT, Lou Will, also had a career high 5.4 assists last year, showcasing the deadly pick and roll with Trezz for the world when they took two games in Oracle.
However, the experiment of giving heavy minutes to Landry Shamet in the pre-season has been interesting. He’s an average ball handler who is capable but I think that move from Doc is more out of necessity than want. He’s a tailor made shooting guard with all the size and movement you want at that position. To give him point guard responsibilities takes away from his natural strength, which is being a straight sniper. Maybe I’m wrong and I hope I am, but playing him heavy minutes at that position could frustrate him if he doesn’t find success early.
Early Season Effort
I know, weird. The whole identity of this team last year was grit, effort, and passion. Clips would straight spot teams 20 points in the first half only to come back on teams at home and on the road. But this year is different and now the hunter become the hunted, the shoe is on the other foot, and with great power comes great responsibilities. You ever been punched in the face with three straight cliches? Just happened.
Put some ice on it.
Anyways, there’s a natural sense of comfort you have when a guy like Kawhi is on your team, let alone when Paul George gets back. It’s a feeling of knowing you can always overcome with talent. I hope this doesn’t happen early on because all the expectations mean nothing. This team has won nothing and my only hope is that all the players on the roster don’t buy into the media hype that is surrounding this team. We do live in a world now that values load management, rest, pitch counts, etc. But that can’t get in the way of effort and execution. There are a lot of new pieces and I expect some growing pains but the effort should be there starting Tuesday if this season is going to be special.
And with my final thought, the new Clipper City uniforms Mister Cartoon designed are flames.