The Los Angeles Clippers entered the season as the favorites to win the NBA Championship but still have more to prove for us to completely buy-in.
The Los Angeles Clippers are one of three teams that the public gives a legitimate shot to win the NBA Title in 2020, with the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks rounding out the trio. And while the Clippers have the talent and pedigree to win a Championship, they have more to prove before the general public can buy in on 2020.
This might seem like a harsh overreaction after the Clippers’ loss to the Sacramento Kings and it is not, it is a somewhat concerning trend that has been present throughout the year, so much so that even Kawhi Leonard said it is time that the Clippers start playing better (h/t ESPN).
The team has failed to really get into a groove at all this season and there definitely are reasons for that. But if the team finishes the season without ever finding that groove, without ever finding that best version of themselves, why should we assume that it will magically be found in the postseason?
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Whether it is load management or injuries to their top stars, the Clippers have never really fielded the best team possible this year. And with new additions in Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson, we should not just assume that once that completed product is on the court that it will mesh together seamlessly.
On paper, the Clippers are the deepest team in the league and should be able to take care of the Lakers and the Bucks. We need to see it jump off the paper. We looked at the past six title-winning teams and compared their regular season to get a gist of where the Clippers stand up.
First of all, the last six title-winning teams (and beyond) had at least one stretch throughout the year where they won at least eight games in a row, some teams had several. The Clippers are yet to do that this season, with their longest winning streak ironically being seven games.
It should be noted that the Lakers have two winning streaks of eight or more games, one being nine games and the other being 10. The Bucks have an 18 and nine-game winning streak under their belt.
We also broke down the second half records for these past six teams, as this is the chance for the Clippers to prove that they are on the same level. From worst to best, here is how the past six champions fared after the All-Star Break.
- 2017-2018 Golden State Warriors: 14-10 (.583)
- 2015-2016 Cleveland Cavaliers: 19-11 (.633)
- 2018-2019 Toronto Raptors: 15-8 (.652)
- 2016-2017 Golden State Warriors: 20-6 (.769)
- 2014-2015 Golden State Warriors: 25-6 (.806)
- 2013-2014 San Antonio Spurs: 22-4 (.846)
So there are some teams that were not elite in the second half. The first three teams on the list had a second-half winning percentage that is lower than the Clippers’ current winning percentage. However, those three teams also had a winning percentage of at least .728 at the All-Star Break. The Clippers’ winning percentage was .672 at the break.
In fact, the Clippers’ first-half winning percentage is lower than every single one of the past six champions’ at the All-Star Break. The worst was the Spurs, who entered the break with a .714 winning percentage and we saw what kind of run they went on.
So historically speaking, the Los Angeles Clippers need to go on a run, find that groove and get more consistent in the second half. Could they do that? Absolutely, but until they do, we should not completely buy-in on them winning the title.
Yes, it is good on paper and yes, the Toronto Raptors won it last year with arguably a worse roster around Leonard, who carried them to the NBA Finals. But that narrative is not as sound as some Clipper fans want to admit.
The Raptors went 16-6 without Kawhi Leonard last season. The Clippers are 6-7. The instant counterpoint would be that the Clippers have played tougher competition without Kawhi this season than the Raptors played last season, but even that does not hold up.
The combined winning percentage of the 11 teams that the Clippers have played without Kawhi is .477. The combined winning percentage of the 17 teams that the Raptors played without Kawhi was .482. Seven of the Clippers’ 13 games without Kawhi were against sub-.500 teams, 12 of the Raptors’ 22 were against sub-.500 teams.
So the competition both have played without Kawhi is fairly similar and the Clippers were also without Paul George in only three of the 13 games that Kawhi has missed. They are 0-3 in those contests.
Kawhi Leonard is right, it is time for the Los Angeles Clippers to start playing better basketball. Because if they don’t, as recent history as indicated, they may fall victim to the Lakers or the Bucks.