The Golden State Warriors will be going for their fourth NBA title in five years in the upcoming season. They’ll have their All-Star core in tact and also added All-NBA center DeMarcus Cousins this summer.
The Los Angeles Lakers added LeBron James and a slew of other veterans to their young nucleus.
The Houston Rockets lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, but added Carmelo Anthony and a couple other pieces to their 65-win team that advanced to Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals last season.
The Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves will have another year of maturity under their belts and will seemingly be improved clubs. Although both the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans each had a major loss (Melo and Boogie), they will also likely be in the mix to return to the playoffs in the upcoming season.
Despite losing Kawhi Leonard in a trade with the Toronto Raptors, the San Antonio Spurs picked up DeMar DeRozan and will always be in the mix with Gregg Popovich at the helm.
Further, the Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies (all non-playoff teams this past season) should all be much-improved clubs based on offseason additions and improved health.
Therefore, is there any reason that the Los Angeles Clippers, who have moved on from the “Lob City” era that featured Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, shouldn’t tank in order to rebuild?
After all, the only teams in the West that weren’t listed above are the Sacramento Kings and the Phoenix Suns, both of which are young clubs, but are also filled with immense talent.
Despite their All-Star coaching staff led by Doc Rivers, one can easily make the case that the Clippers might end up being the worst team in the Western Conference in 2018-2019.
Their best overall player is Tobias Harris and he’ll be surrounded by a number of veterans (Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Danilo Gallinari, Marcin Gortat, Mbah a Moute, Boban Marjanovic, Wesley Johnson, Mike Scott) and youngsters (Montrezl Harrell Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Juwun Evans, Jerome Robinson, Sindarius Thornwell, Tyrone Wallace).
While the defensive firepower will be there, they will likely struggle offensively and are going to miss the rim protection and rebounding skills of Jordan, who they lost to free agency this summer.
Despite everything above, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer made it clear that his team will not tank this season (or in any circumstance).
No “trusting the process” in LA
“That ain’t us. Nuh-uh, no way,” he said, per Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times. “People can do it their way. We’re going to be good our way. We’re not going to show up and suck for a year, two years. I think we got higher expectations on us than the long, hard five, six years of absolute crap like the 76ers put in. How could we look you guys in the eye if we did that to you?”
Although the NBA’s new draft lottery rules (designed to prevent tanking) will come into effect next summer, sacrificing wins to develop the team’s younger players on the court while guaranteeing themselves a high first-round pick of some sort might be the best direction for the Clippers to go, considering the fact that they’re still in search of their first championship.
Considering the fact that they have a number of proven veteran players on their roster, LA might be able to land future draft assets or young players back in potential trades, as well, if they decided to go that route.
But, Ballmer made it clear that the Clippers will not be backing down.