The NBA season is literally less than a week away but the Los Angeles Clippers have their fair share of questions to answer still. After some of the most turnover in recent offseason history, here are five questions headed into the Clippers season.
Does anyone care about the Clippers?
If you’re a Lakers fan or one of the other 28 teams, you might ask yourself does anyone care about the Clippers? That might be true considering their roster is barren of a star and the Lakers just got the NBA’s biggest star.
It’s been a long year or so for Clippers fans as the team has said goodbye to most of the key players from one of the best eras in the franchise history. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are long gone and the Clippers shipped out Austin Rivers for Marcin Gortat in the offseason. They also let DeAndre Jordan opt out and walk in free agency. That might mean the team goes back to the shadow of the Lakers.
Either way, this season will test real Clippers fans. L.A.C is in the middle of the pack in the West. They have plenty of veteran talent to stay in the middle of the pack like they did last season. However, most of the West got better and the Clippers are one injury away from falling to the bottom of the West. That’s especially true if any of the young teams take an additional step.
Regardless, we won’t know if the Clippers are relevant until there are wins and losses.
Who is calling the shots in L.A.?
In fact, the only key member from those winning seasons is head coach Doc Rivers. Rivers was once the president of basketball operations and head coach but he lost that title before last season. Still, the Clippers gave Rivers an extension in May of this year. Rivers did an underrated coaching job keeping the Clippers competitive through injuries and transition last season. They were 42-40 and finished 10th in the West last year.
That means, the Clippers enter their first rebuild/retool with Steve Ballmer as owner. He inherited a team that had Doc as coach as well as the aforementioned star-powered squad. The roster is different as well as the front office.
Now, Jerry West is in the front office and he gets his fair share of hype despite his role as a consultant being sort of vague. He’s often credited for helping the Warriors land Durant a few seasons ago as well as their draft successes. Los Angeles will hope he brings some of that magic into 2019 recruiting and draft efforts which will be his second year with the franchise.
Otherwise, President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank was once on the sideline with Rivers. This will be his third season in the front office. General Manager Michael Winger is also a part of the reshaped front office.
Moreover, the team hired former Sports Illustrated writer Lee Jenkins for a newly created front-office position of executive director of research and identity.
How will these decision makers from the old regime interact with the ones who came on more recently? What stakeholder is going to have to check their ego the most? Who will have the final say when it comes to making another tough personnel decision? Is this Clippers front office equipped to handle a rebuild? Can they recruit an All-Star, max-deal player in the offseason?
These are all questions that may get answers as the season goes on.
Will the Clippers get a star?
Speaking of big moves, the other team in Los Angeles got a big star with LeBron. On the other hand, the Clippers lost three All-Stars in a little over a year.
Already, the team is a real player for Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler if they become free agents. They could make a midseason trade to insure landing one of those guys, especially if either of those players’ situations get worse.
Other potential free agents like DeMarcus Cousins, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson will surely be on the Clippers radar too. They’ve got enough cap space to get at least one or two max contracts.
With that, the Clippers have plenty of expiring contracts. Gortat, Patrick Beverly, Boban Marjanovic, Milos Teodosic, Wesley Johnson, Luc Mbah a Moute, Tobias Harris and others have expiring deals. Avery Bradley, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams have money after this year but they’re at a fair enough value that the Clippers might command a nice draft pick for any of them.
Are there any other potential all-stars on the roster?
Thus far, Williams and Harris plan to have the biggest roles and most potential for stardom. Both players established themselves as proven commodities in the league but neither appear headed for an All-Star game. However, that could change as neither were too far last season.
Harris averaged 19.3 points, 6 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 32 games with the Clippers last year. He still turned down a five-year, $80 million extension offer from the Clippers this summer.
Williams on the other hand, averaged 22.6 points, 5.3 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists last season. He re-signed in the middle of the season despite being snuffed from an All-Star team.
Regardless, Williams and/or Harris could be key parts of a package to get an All-Star. Still the question remains, will the Clippers make a move for an All-Star before the offseason?
Will the Los Angeles rebuild?
On the other hand, the Clippers season could go the complete other direction. There’s a youth movement as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been one of the breakout stars of the Summer League and preseason. How will the Clippers continue to build around him and fellow lottery pick Jerome Robinson?
Los Angeles has some other surprise young talent that proved they could play in the league. Now, players like Sindarius Thornwell, Jawun Evans and others will need to prove they are more than just capable players if they want to factor into the long-term plans. What players will stay on board?
Part of that rebuild and potential tank includes moving Danilo Gallinari’s contract which has more than $20 million over the next season. How can the Clippers make that move?
Further, what veteran players will the Clippers be able to flip for draft picks if they do decide to rebuild?
Those questions could get answered real fast if the Clippers appear over-matched out the gate.
Can the Clippers stay healthy?
Of course, you can’t mention the Clippers veteran players without asking if they can stay healthy.
Last season, the Clippers had more than their fair share of injuries. They used 37 different starting lineups. They still remained in playoff contention until the final few games and scored more points (8,937) last season than any other since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1984 with 11 players miss a combined 264 games because of injuries, per the OC Register.
Moreover, Bradley appeared in 46 games, Teodosic appeared in only 45 games, Gallinari played in just 21 and Beverly played in only 11. Those three will again be relied on as veteran contributors but will they be available?
Not to mention, the Clippers will have a log-jam in the backcourt if everyone stays healthy.Bradley, Williams, Shai, Milos and Beverly will all be major players in the backcourt if they’re healthy and not traded. Two of those players could be cut or moved before the season since the Clippers have 17 players on the roster and only 15 roster spots. Beverly has a non-guaranteed contract so he could be the first to go.
Ironically, health seems like this is the very question the Clippers ask themselves every year. No matter who is on the roster, it seems like availability is the pertain question for Los Angeles every season.
What about the new arena in Inglewood?
Finally, here’s a bonus question that we might not have a ton of answers to during the upcoming season. How will the Clippers new season in Inglewood progress?
Steve Ballmer has said he is moving to Inglewood no matter what as his team needs to own an arena. If you live in Los Angeles, you’re aware that Inglewood will be the new center of the vast metropolis once the Rams stadium is complete in the next coming years.
Therefore, it makes sense for Ballmer to build an arena there even if the Lakers actually won championships in that city when they played at the Inglewood forum. Not to mention, it has always appeared like the Clippers are the least favorite tenant in the soon-to-be 20-year-old staples center.
Still, Angelinos might also know that L.A. rent is already too high and the Clippers stadium is the latest issue in a time where gentrification is happening all over the county.
Thus, the project is already running into hurdles. Madison Square Garden owns the neighboring Forum and they sued the Clippers and City of Inglewood for finessing them out of the land for the development. They’re also getting sued by residents and community groups who wanted the land for housing development. Former Senator Barbara Boxer is against the arena too.
Nonetheless, California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that expedites the process for lawsuits and appeals due to environmental concerns too. The Clippers plan to get the state-of-the-art arena opened by 2024 and the City of Inglewood is real excited about the potential for jobs and crime reduction from the development.
Either way, the new stadium is an ongoing question for the next few seasons. Is it real and how long will it take for it to happen? What developments will we see over the next season?
Stay posted for answers to these questions and more after the Clippers season begins versus the Denver Nuggets on Oct. 17 at 7:30 PST .