The Los Angeles Clippers are amongst the most fascinating teams in the NBA this season. They have one of the most star-studded rosters in the NBA, headlined by the two-way prowess of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Those two forwards lead a group filled with solid role players and playmakers, including Russell Westbrook, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac, Mason Plumlee and Terance Mann.
Falling Out of Favor
The preseason NBA championship odds saw the Clippers as one of the favorites to win it all. However, now in the middle of March, they’ve currently earned only 36 wins and 33 losses. That’s tied for the 5th spot in the west, but the Golden State Warriors currently own the tie-breaker, placing Los Angeles at the 6-seed.
That’s an underwhelming spot for the Clippers. They entered the season with championship aspirations, yet are fighting to stay out of the Play-In Tournament. The Play-In, one of the NBA’s most recent changes to the playoff format, sees the 7 and 8 seeds play each other in one game for the 7 seed. The loser faces the winner of the 9 vs. 10-seed, and the winner of that game earns the 8 spot. The other two teams are eliminated from playoff contention.
Having to fight just to make the first round of the playoffs is a task the Clippers hope to avoid. Anything can happen in single games, and Los Angeles certainly doesn’t want to risk their season in such fashion.
So, what is the Clippers’ ceiling?
The answer is the NBA Finals.
It’s not unreasonable to believe the Clippers can get it together, secure a top-6 seed, and make a “Cinderella” run all the way to the NBA championship. Although, seeing as the team was one of the favorites for the championship coming into this season, it’s debatable whether that’d be a surprising run.
But there’s no doubting that, given their current spot in the standings, a run to the Finals would be an immense challenge. However, there’s one big reason to believe the Clippers can overcome it:
Leonard has missed a lot of time since joining the Clippers, largely due to the infamous “load management.” But it’s important not to forget his incredible skills. Leonard is among the best defenders in the NBA, his ability to steal the ball and block shots being his trademark. He’s no slouch on the other end of the floor, either, being one of the most efficient scorers. He’s averaging 23.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.6 blocks per game this season.
In addition to his solid regular season stats, Kawhi is known for elevating his game in the postseason. During the Toronto Raptors’ run to the championship in 2019, of which Leonard was apart, he displayed a level of clutch play only seen from the likes of Lebron James, Kevin Durant or Larry Bird. It’s not going too far to say he single-handedly carried the team to the title.
That’s what might be in store for the Clippers this year. They’ve had an inconsistent season, but there’s always potential for the team to start clicking and become a massive threat in the postseason.
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