Clippers struggles show they are not to be trusted

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The Clippers must make a move before the trade deadline, here’s why…

The Los Angeles Clippers are stuck. They cashed in all their chips back in the summer of 2019 when they acquired free agent Kawhi Leonard, fresh off winning a championship and Finals MVP with the Toronto Raptors, and Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder via trade.

The duo was revered in NBA discourse and drew comparisons to the wing tandem of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. 20 months later and the Clippers have never been further away from a championship since they signed.

Currently the 4th seed of the Western Conference, you could argue that all is not doom and gloom for the Clippers. Only 2 ½ games separate them and city rivals Los Angeles Lakers in second (Phoenix third).

They have had players miss games. Kawhi had a collision with teammate Serge Ibaka on the Christmas Day game vs the Denver Nuggets. The seemingly always injured Patrick Beverley just last week had a knee complaint, and Paul George endured a seven-game absence back in February with a bone edema injury. Constant injuries to key personnel was a feature of last year’s team.


The Athletic reported that the core of Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams were displeased over the preferential treatment of Kawhi and PG.

Kawhi was often late to team commitments due to living down in San Diego and load managing regularly. Paul George carried himself like a superstar despite not achieving the success that Kawhi has in his career. Head coach Doc Rivers failed to hold the duo accountable and ultimately was fired.

New beginnings, same problems

This season was supposed to be different. Harrell moved across the hall in Staples Center to join the Lakers, with Ibaka replacing him. Luke Kennard joined the team via trade from the Detroit Pistons. Ty Lue slid across the assistants chair to become the new head coach. There was supposed to be a renewed focus, a hunger and desire to prove everybody wrong. Instead, they have shown everyone what they really are: pretenders.

The stats bare out where the Clippers are struggling. The Clippers rank 27th in free throw attempts, despite leading the league in free throw percentage. In March alone, they are shooting almost two less free throws per game compared to February. Rebounding has slid off, almost three less per game in March than in February. The All-Star break should have been a welcomed pause for Ty Lue and his men. If anything, it has exacerbated an already-worrying trend. Post All-Star they are averaging 110.8 PPG, four points less than pre-All-Star and shooting a worse percentage from the floor (45.9% to 48.4%). Across the board: rebounding, assists, blocks, three-point percentage are all down.


Losing their cool in the clutch

Los Angeles Clippers’ crunch time stats are diabolical for a team with NBA Championship aspirations.

The NBA defines clutch as the final five minutes of the game, with the score within five points. Among all 30 teams in the National Basketball Association, the LA Clippers are the WORST performing team in the clutch. In the 19 clutch games they have played, LA have lost 11 of them. They have the lowest: points, field goal attempts, field goals made, field goal percentage and assists.

Point guard upgrade

Much has been said about the team’s need for a point guard. As serviceable as Patrick Beverley is (43.3% on catch and shoot 3s), he is defensive oriented and cannot generate open shots for teammates. Reggie Jackson is not good enough especially in pressure-filled moments. Playmaking duty has largely been taken up by Paul George. George is averaging a career high of 5.3 assists this season. Kawhi is also dishing out the ball more with a career tying 4.9 assists to his name. With that being said, a new point guard is a must.

ESPN writer Zach Lowe floated a trade idea on his podcast, The Lowe Post on Friday that involved Beverly and Williams going to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Ricky Rubio. Rubio is a good playmaker. His artistic passing mixed in with players cutting to the rim can improve the Clippers free throw issues. It also gives them a ball handler in late game situations that can control proceedings instead of settling for jump shots.

The Clippers on the clock. They have no more draft capital having surrendered their assets to acquire Kawhi and PG. As currently constructed they will not win the NBA Championship. They are more likely to lose in the first round than to advance to the Western Conference Finals. Parting ways with Beverley and Williams (and another player to make salaries work) to get Rubio is something they must do. General manager Lawrence Frank needs to make a move, and fast ahead of the NBA trade deadline on 25th March.

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