A MODEST PROPOSAL ...
DOUBLE DOWN ON DEFENSE
The Clippers' reinvention came to a head with the summer departures of DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers, following last season's Blake Griffin trade. Any shift in identity may end up temporary given the front office's designs on acquiring superstar talent, but Patrick Beverley has already dubbed his team "Clamp City." The Clippers—who gave up a staggering 113.0 points per game after the All-Star break—just might have the personnel to make it stick.
A healthy Beverley and Avery Bradley manning the backcourt is a good place to start: Not many teams can deploy a better pair of on-ball defenders. Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has the length and instincts at 6'6" to follow suit, and the addition of the versatile Luc Mbah a Moute to a forward corps anchored by Tobias Harris should enable Doc Rivers to easily toggle between big and small looks. That could be enough to steal some wins and sneak back into the postseason, with Lou Williams still around to close games. L.A. won't be able to take much for granted this season, but leaning in to grit-and-grind could create a respectable stopgap as next summer's starry free-agent class looms.
COACH DOC RIVERS
2017--18 RECORD: 42--40
PREDICTION: Miss playoffs
PG PATRICK BEVERLEY
SG AVERY BRADLEY
SF DANILO GALLINARI
C MARCIN GORTAT [NEW ACQUISITION]
PF TOBIAS HARRIS (65 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
Harris's average after the trade that brought him from Detroit for Blake Griffin was 19.3 ppg. That was nearly as good as Griffin's mark (19.8 ppg) with the Pistons.
PG MILOS TEODOSIC
SG LOU WILLIAMS (61 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])
C MONTREZL HARRELL
(*) NEW ACQUISITION
(#) SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP LOS ANGELES
GO BACK 18 months—who would have thought that Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan would all be gone? The Clippers tried it with stars and hit their ceiling.... Every year the NBA becomes more and more of a guard's league. LOU WILLIAMS was born to score, and he found a system that gave him freedom to do whatever he wants with the ball. Their other personnel required him to do everything he did because they didn't have many creators .... You just have to assume DANILO GALLINARI and PATRICK BEVERLEY will miss a bunch of time. If they play 60 games, that's a huge win. This is a really talented roster but totally unreliable.... TOBIAS HARRIS has a modern game—he can shoot, pass and drive. He can play three or four, but he's not really a great defender at either spot. He still needs to prove he's a playoff player.... They reportedly offered Harris $80 million for five years. I wouldn't have gone much higher than that. He'll get paid by some team that misses out on the players they actually want. He's the Carlos Boozer of 2010 when it comes to getting paid next summer.... MARCIN GORTAT really needed a change of scenery. The trade for him [it sent Austin Rivers to the Wizards] was a classic case of filling in a roster hole. Gortat gives you some skills that DeAndre didn't have offensively, but he's not nearly the same defender.... AVERY BRADLEY went from underrated to overrated really quickly. His health problems changed the whole dynamic. It was a shame how far he fell off.