Could 2023 finally be the year the Los Angeles Clippers put it together and go to the NBA Finals? Check out the article to find out why 2023 might be the year of the Clippers.
Los Angeles Clippers: Is It Finally Their Year?
It was the summer of 2019. The Los Angeles Clippers were two years removed from Lob City and looking for a new direction for the team. New owner Steve Ballmer, who took over the team in 2014, was ready to stand out from the pack and shake off the “second banana” mentality that the franchise had from sharing their arena with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ballmer decided to make a splash in the free agent market and got Kawhi Leonard, 2019 NBA Finals MVP, to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers right at the end of the free agency period. Leonard opted out of the last year of his deal after he was traded away from the San Antonio Spurs to the Toronto Raptors.
Leonard’s signing was contingent on getting a running mate for him – which Ballmer did by leveraging a whole haul of draft picks, a couple of young players (including star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander), and traded for Oklahoma City’s Paul George. The Clippers now had two of the finest wings in the NBA. They were ready to make their claim to basketball supremacy.
Unfortunately, it’s been anything but that since 2019. In pursuit of the goal, the Clippers lost franchise cornerstone Kawhi Leonard for over a year.
With some new additions, the Clippers hope this will be the year they’ll have avoided injury luck. The following factors will be vital if the Clippers are to win an NBA championship.
Depth of Roster without Kawhi & Paul George
Given that the duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George has only played 104 games together over three seasons together, the rest of the roster has had to step up in various configurations. They crafted a manageable unit with Paul George as the primary option when Leonard was out.
The Clippers have displayed their depth throughout their recent playoff runs. They added to that depth in the off-season by adding former five-time All-Star John Wall to the roster. Wall has been dealing with various injuries since 2019, so he hasn’t played much basketball in the last couple of years. It was an all-upside move for the Clippers.
Playoff Stumbles of the Past to Appear Again
The Clippers are the oldest franchise in the NBA (they started as the Boston Braves) that has never been to an NBA Finals. Their appearance in the Western Conference Finals in 2021 ended a 51-year drought for the organization.
The Clippers also play in a loaded Western Conference. Fans think back to the first-round series in the bubble against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks and the conference semi-finals against the Denver Nuggets. The competition & depth in the West seems impossible to survive. The Clippers are betting that if they have their full complement of players peaking at the right time of year, they’ll be able to put together a championship run.