With the All-Star game approaching, now is a better time than ever to discuss the Los Angeles Clippers, the league’s current most threatening team in the league.
The Los Angeles Clippers had a rough start to the new NBA season. Starting the year with a shaky 8-10 record, the star-studded team then showed the fans exactly what we were expecting from such a high-caliber team after winning nine straight and prevailing to a 17-10 record before dropping two straight games in blowout fashion. Despite their rough start, they now sit third in the Western Conference slightly above the reigning NBA champions, the Denver Nuggets with a 33-15 record, just a single game behind the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
We have seen the Clippers contend in years past. Always come up just short of making their well-sought-after appearance in the NBA Finals. Last year held an unacceptable outcome for the Clippers after being bested by the Phoenix Suns in five games.
So what’s different this year for this team that has always disappointed in the postseason? One of the key focal points the Clippers were in desperate need of amending was the constant injuries their super-star players, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were facing.
Controversy Brewing with the Los Angeles Clippers Super-Stars
After facing persistent criticism regarding his passion for the sport, Kawhi Leonard is well on pace to play the most games we’ve seen him in a season since the 2016-17 NBA season when he led his San Antonio Spurs team to a 61-21 record. It is well said in the NBA that the best ability is availability. Something this Clippers team has been yearning for. Kawhi Leonard is also compiling the best field goal percentage of his career with a flat 53% from the field and 45% from three.
In 2019, the Los Angeles Clippers made their historic move by signing Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. What seemed like a league-ending move at the time has turned out to have a more mediocre effect as we see a new ‘super-team’ spring out of nowhere every year; however, the future Hall of Famer is back to leading his team to stardom and fans couldn’t be happier to see it finally happening.
But that’s not the only explanation for the Los Angeles Clippers’ extreme rise to the top.
Paul George joined the Los Angeles Clippers after coming off of an MVP candidate season with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2018, averaging 28ppg and 8.2rpg. While he hasn’t put up quite the numbers he was in OKC, he’s still been just as effective on the court, when he’s healthy, that is. Paul George has missed 140 games in the five years (including the 2023-24 season) he’s been playing for the franchise. Only 3 of those have come from this year.
The two haven’t seen this healthy of a season as a pair ever and It’s no wonder the team is on pace to finish with the best record the franchise has accumulated since the ‘Lob City’ era finishing with a 51-31 record.
James Harden Blockbuster Trade
At the start of the season, we were prepared for a James Harden trade despite exercising his player option with the Philadelphia 76ers on June 29th. Except he wasn’t planning on sticking around. There was one caveat. Harden wanted something he’s somewhat been known for, a trade request. His short tenure with the Sixers was coming to an end and Philadelphia had begun shopping the 10-time All-Star.
A trade between the Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers had finally happened. After months of anticipation to see where James Harden would land, we saw him join another ‘super-team’. Combining forces with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook.
It took time for James Harden to fall into his role with the Clippers. Harden had taken quite the step back, no longer assuming the role of being the main star of the team for the last three franchises he’s played with and fans had begun to wonder if trading for a super-star with so much controversy surrounding him would be yet another flop for the Los Angeles Clippers.
While James Harden is averaging a career low in points since coming off the bench in 2012 with the Oklahoma City Thunder, his mere presence of being a 3-way scorer is immediately felt when he steps on the court.
Russell Westbrook Shining in New Bench Role
A major issue heading into this year was determining whether or not Russell Westbrook could remain as effective as a starter while coming off of the bench. He has certainly shown he can adapt to not being a star on a successful team anymore.
Although Russell Westbrook’s stat line is less than impressive when compared to the rest of his career, the now 35-year-old vet has fallen into a role that has been a crucial compnent for the Los Angeles Clippers. The former league MVP has been healthy the entire year while averaging 11.4ppg and 22mpg which are both career lows for the former All-Star; however, he’s currently having one of the most efficient years shooting the ball that he’s ever had. Not to mention surpassing a career total of 25,000 career points becoming only the 25th player in NBA history to do so.
Along with Norman Powell joining him off the bench, this Clippers team has never looked so strong.
What to Expect from the Big Three in the Second Half of the NBA Season
The Los Angeles Clippers have 32 games left in the year. Winning 17 of those games would put them over the fifty-win mark. A feat the franchise hasn’t seen in longer than half a decade and one that the fans have been waiting years to finally see.
They’ll no doubt be a top contender by the end of the year and as long as their star players stay healthy, one can assume a deep playoff run at the very least.
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