NBA teams are beginning to play their final ten games of the regular season, and with the NBA playoffs approaching, it is time to evaluate which teams have a legitimate chance of making a title run.
Most fans are quick to bring up teams such as the Phoenix Suns, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, along with a couple of others, as the “real” title threats, but there is a name they are all forgetting: The Los Angeles Clippers.
The team currently sits at the eighth seed in the west with a 37-39 record. They are on a one-way track to the play-in games and have +3000 odds to win the conference. So why do I think the Clippers are a dark horse to be one of the final teams standing in these NBA playoffs?
Return of Paul George (and Kawhi?)
One of the major reasons why NBA fans and analysts are not considering the Clippers as a legitimate title threat is the fact that they lack a superstar. They have played the majority of the season without their two all-star players, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard. However, it seems as if the two are recovering at just the right time.
George just returned to his first game Tuesday against the Utah Jazz and went off for 34 points in a 25 point comeback win. George’s 6’7” frame and decorated scoring repertoire make him a mismatch against most defenders, especially since he primarily plays shooting guard.
While Kawhi’s future this season is more unknown due to the constant silence from his camp, there have been whispers that the 2x Finals MVP will be able to return to the court at some point in the playoffs. Kawhi still is one of the best five players in the NBA, and the two-way superstar can lock up any player in the west.
Front Office and Coaching
Few teams are better than Los Angeles on the sidelines and in the front office. Jerry West was an essential proponent in turning this franchise around into relevancy, as he was the mastermind behind the acquisitions of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.
West also upgraded the roster this season through a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers, receiving Robert Covington and Norman Powell in the deal. Both players are expected to have extended playoff minutes, as Covington is a great three and D player, and Powell is a 20 point per game scorer.
Their coach, Tyronn Lue, is an established winner in the NBA and continues to be one of the best coaches in the league. Lue led the team to the Western Conference Finals despite losing Kawhi the series before and is the coach behind the only 3-1 comeback in Finals history.
Even though they do not do their work on the court, West and Lue elevate this team more than most others in their position.
The Supporting Cast Poised for NBA Playoffs Run
A final reason why this Clippers team can make a run in the NBA playoffs is their depth. There are ten players on this roster that can play major playoff minutes, all with different talents and roles that they can fill.
Marcus Morris is one of the team’s longest-tenured players and has been a key starter for multiple years. He, along with Luke Kennard and Nick Batum, have a responsibility to stretch the floor offensively and do it well.
Reggie Jackson and Terrence Mann are two guards with a clutch gene, both having signature playoff performances in 2021. Even big Ivica Zubac has proven to be valuable for his rebounding and his efficiency in the pick and roll.
The combination of all these role players can give the returning star players the support they need to win against any western conference team in a seven-game series. If this team reaches full health, Los Angeles is worth a sprinkle to win the NBA Finals.