Preseason Preview #22: LA Clippers

Season Goal: Set up for Offseason

In the first season without any members of Lob City, this Clippers team has a lot of questions. Whether or not they make the playoffs this year isn’t all that important because they obviously aren’t a competitor this year. The more interesting question is how will the 2019 offseason change this team. With a wealth of cap space and young players, the Clippers are poised to make a move at a superstar. With rumors linking the Clippers and Kawhi, it’s possible the Clippers to be a competitor in the Western Conference playoffs once again. Obviously, a lot of things will have to go their way, but it’s still possible. This year, not the regular season, but rather the offseason will make or break the Clippers future.

Storylines:

Clipper Kawhi

Throughout the offseason rumors about where Kawhi wants to go have been all over the place, but the Clippers have always been in the conversation. According to multiple rumors, Kawhi favors the Clippers over the Lakers as his destination for his 2019 free agency. Of course, a lot can change in a year but the Clippers can offer Kawhi everything he wants. They have the cap space to give him a max contract, a mix of youth and veterans, and plenty of tradeable contracts and draft picks to improve the team immediately.

There are so many questions surrounding Kawhi that it’s hard to know how much better he could make the Clippers. But, if he is still a top 5 player after his injury it’s safe to say he’ll definitely help. His ability to generate his own offense is something they desperately need as Lou Williams and Austin Rivers were the only competent shot creators last season. Now that Rivers is gone they have even less offensive firepower.

On the defensive end, the Clippers with Kawhi could be really special. If they run a lineup with Patrick Beverly, Avery Bradley, Kawhi Leonard they would be able to lock up anybody on the perimeter. They could also easily upgrade their frontcourt with their abundance of cap space and draft assets. Adding a two-way superstar like Kawhi could quickly turn this team from a projected bottom-dweller in the west into a contender. If the Warriors start to fall apart and the Clippers do extremely well in the 2019 offseason, there may be a drastic shift in the NBA hierarchy.

Jimmy Butler in LA?

After demanding a trade from the Timberwolves, Butler surprised many with his list of desired locations. It included the two New York teams, the Knicks and the Nets, and the LA Clippers. The Clippers are in a very good position to make a move, they have easy to trade contracts and all of their first-round picks. The question is whether or not they’re willing to pull the trigger on a big trade. They have a good chance to sign him in free agency, but they also risk a Paul George situation. If Jimmy falls in love with the team he is traded that will definitely hurt the Clippers’ future plans.

If he does find his way onto the Clippers this season, they may be back in the playoff conversation. There would still be plenty of teams they would have to beat out, but a line up of Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley/ Lou Williams, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, Marcin Gortat could be really good. This is, of course, assuming they don’t have to gut their roster to acquire him through trade. Butler gives them the much-needed star power the Clippers have been lacking. His ability to contribute on both ends will also be invaluable to the team. The Clippers have worked hard to put themselves in a position to acquire a star player, now it’s time they finish the job.

Depth Chart:

PG: Milos Teodosic, Patrick Beverly, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tyrone Wallace

SG: Avery Bradley, Lou Williams, Jerome Robinson, Sindarius Thornwell

SF: Danilo Gallinari, Wesley Johnson

PF: Tobias Harris, Luc Mbah a Moute, Montrezl Harrell

C: Marcin Gortat, Boban Marjanovic

Salary Cap Situation:

~120M of ~101M cap committed

Expiring deals: Milos Teodosic, Patrick Beverley, Tobias Harris, Wesley Johnson, Luc Mbah a Moute, Marcin Gortat, Boban Marjanovic

Bad Contracts: Danilo Gallinari (2yrs, ~$44M)

*All salary data via sportrac.com*

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