Clippers: now with an actual bench!

Clippers Cover

In the next two weeks, the Armchair crew will be taking on the NBA Regular Season preview. We will be taking on each team individually and looking into what to expect from each.

Past Record: 56-26, Conference Semifinals (Rockets in 7)

Key Additions: Lance Stephenson, Wesley Johnson, Paul “The Truth” Pierce, Cole Aldrich, Josh Smith, Pablo Prigioni, Chuck Hayes

Key Losses: Lester Hudson, Ekpe Udoh, Jordan Hamilton, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, Matt Barnes, Spencer Hawes, Spencer Hawes’ ridiculous contract

Source of last season’s most bewildering playoff collapse by an actual contender (sorry Toronto) and starring roles in Emojigate – the greatest day in NBA twitter history – the LA Clippers have actually managed to have a pretty good offseason. Their lack of bench depth killed them last year, particularly during Blake Griffin’s shoulder injury and after seven games of basketball/attritional warfare against the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. To that end, they dealt Spencer Hawes (and his massive mid-level contract) to the Hornet for Lance Stephenson and functionally shipped Matt Barnes in exchange for Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, and Pablo Prigioni through free agency.

The Clippers’ starting lineup remains what it always has been: a lob-filled, highly entertaining offensive force driven by the league’s best pure point guard and a pair of offensive bigs who are a nightmare to defend and be defended by. In theory, they’ve added Paul Pierce’s unmatched clutch-ness, Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson’s scoring, and Pablo Prigioni’s gritty defense to what was already a serious Western Conference contender. Doc Rivers remains one of the NBA’s finest coaches, and the Clippers are more than capable of taking on any opponent when they’re at their best.

That being said, there are two worries for the Clips heading into this season. The first is health: Paul Pierce is an old man, Chris Paul usually misses 15-20 games through injury each season, and Blake Griffin has battled injury throughout his career. All are key components of Rivers’ system and dressing room, and long-term injuries could hit them hard even with the expanded depth. Second is the process of fitting a disparate group of pieces together on the bench; there might not be enough touches in the known universe for all of Lance Stephenson, Austin Rivers, and Josh Smith to feel as if they are handling the basketball an adequate amount. An imbalance of minutes, or a personality clash between players could easily see the dressing room atmosphere – a key part of Rivers’ coaching philosophy – collapse. So much of the outcome in the West will depend on who draws who in the opening rounds; whether the Clippers will benefit or suffer from that is difficult to say.

Plausible best case scenario: Clippers win the title, forever banishing the nonsense “Chris Paul is not all-time great” arguments to the dustbins of internet history.

Plausible worst case scenario: Clippers suffer from key injuries, make playoffs, draw brutal matchup, out in the conference quarterfinals, and we have to endure another year of “Chris Paul is not all-time great” nonsense.

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