2019-20 Season Line & Odds:
OVER 55.5 Wins (-110) / UNDER 55.5 Wins (-110)
The Clippers are the talk of the town in the NBA, and rightfully so. After taking 2 games from a fully healthy Golden State squad in the first round of the 2019 playoffs, the Clippers may have been content running it back for the 2019-20 season. Especially after seeing Kevin Durant (now a member of the Brooklyn Nets) and Klay Thompson go down late in the playoffs, which will cost them significant time this year. But, instead of running it back, the Clippers did pretty much the exact opposite.
Steve Ballmer and the Clippers were able to go out and win the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes, which opened the door for them to trade for Paul George. Most teams would be thrilled with just adding one of the best two-way players in the league who just led his team to their first championship in franchise history. But the Clippers knew they had to do more to solidify their spot as a real championship contender.
After the long-awaited Kawhi signing was finalized, the Clippers were able to land Paul George in one of the crazier trades in recent history. Landing George, another top-tier two-way player, came with a high price, of course. Los Angeles had to surrender Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a young, talented guard that I’m a big fan of coming into next season, Danilo Gallinari, a solid veteran who put up a career-high 19.8 PPG on 43.3 3PT% last season, and a record 7 draft picks to make sure they would land Paul George. Obviously, if the 2019-20 season ends with them hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time in franchise history, I don’t think they’ll miss those draft picks in the moment.
Kawhi’s signing and PG’s trade weren’t the only moves they made this offseason. The Clippers were also able to trade for Mo Harkless and re-sign Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green and Rodney McGruder, all of which were integral pieces for their team last season. Perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate, and 3-time Sixth Man Award-winner, Lou Williams, was able to put up 20 points and over 5 assists per game off the bench last season, and he should provide very valuable minutes this year when PG or Kawhi need a rest.
There may be some concerns about increased rest for both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this season, which could throw a wrench in the Clippers’ chemistry. This is especially true for George, since he’s had 2 different shoulder surgeries this offseason and does not have a date set for his return yet. Although, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, league sources say he could miss the first six weeks of the season. Since we now know what the Clippers schedule looks like, those six weeks would equate to the first 22 games. Paul George missing 22 games isn’t necessarily the end of the world, but missing his first 22 games with another new superstar could be a recipe for an early-season slump and a lack of chemistry.
My biggest concern with taking the Over is the possibility that Doc Rivers follows last year’s blueprint of sitting Kawhi and/or Paul George for “load management” on a consistent basis. I think it’s much more likely to be the case with George, but we’ll see what their plan is during the regular season.
Injury concerns aside, this is a Clippers team that was able to add Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who are two top 10 players, and an established two-way player in Mo Harkless. Combine that with their successful re-signing of Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green and Rodney McGruder and they’ve built an all-around solid and deep team.
Despite Kawhi and Paul George’s rest/injury concerns, I still expect the Clippers to be a top team in the West. However, the Clippers have a difficult road ahead of them this year. With 8 of their first 11 games coming against playoff teams, and 1 of the other 3 being against the Lakers, the Clippers will face some tough tests early, and they will most likely all be without Paul George. Their priority will be building chemistry between their two new superstars and the rest of the team, but the expectations are as high as can be this year. With the uncertainty surrounding PG/Kawhi’s rest/injuries, combined with a stronger Western Conference, I don’t think it would be wise to expect the Clippers to be a 60-win team or the 1-seed in the West this year.
The Clippers are still the favorites to win the Pacific Division and the NBA Finals, but I see them falling just short of 56 wins this season.