- The Clippers would keep their lottery-protected first round draft pick if they miss the playoffs, but they continue winning and now sit in sixth place in the Western Conference. What’s driving the playoff push in L.A.?
While other teams are starting to wind down, the Clippers are in the middle of a playoff push. They're sitting at No. 7 in the standings, bunched up with the Spurs and Jazz toward the bottom of the board, with the potential to move into the sixth seed. As a team in need of a star, should the Clippers approach their season differently? Why aren't they tanking? Andrew Sharp and The Washington Post's Ben Golliver discuss this on the latest Open Floor podcast.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Andrew Sharp: I do want to read one email from Alex who says, 'I've seen a lot of people questioning why the Clippers are trying to make the playoffs since they forfeit their pick if they do. But I think they have the right idea. Doesn't making the playoffs at the expense of the Lakers and thus further cementing this Lakers team as a circus sh--show outweigh the chance at an early-teens pick in a mediocre draft?'
I think that is a very smart point, Alex, and one that we should have made when we were talking about the Clippers like a week and a half ago. But I think that might be part of the reason they're making this push, and I also think there's just a lot of value in being able to go to free agents and say, 'Look, we're already a playoff team. Come make us a title team.' And that's probably the pitch that they envision this summer. And the No. 15 pick in the draft or the No. 12 pick in the draft is not really going to change that very much.
Ben Golliver: I do think this is a case where all the theoretical conversations about the value of a draft pick or what we can do in free agency really matter less given the personalities of the people involved. Patrick Beverly, it sometimes looks like an act, it looks like he's just playing to the cameras. That is exactly who he is. He is so locked in and insane and competitive. You will never get him on board with a tank, and the same thing goes with some of their other personalities. Lou Will might be a smooth scorer, that guy is very competitive. Montrezl Harrell tries to rip the rim off the hoop three times per game and it's amazing he hasn't succeeding in breaking a backboard yet but that could be coming at some point.
I think the biggest difference between the Lakers and the Clippers is not the guys on short-term contracts; it's not the distractions in L.A. I think the biggest difference is some of the personalities the Clippers have tried to cultivate and pull together are just competitive on a different level and at a different stage of their career than a lot of the Lakers players. They've got veterans who are just completely hungry all together in the same room, and that's why they've had the staying power this year. I think that pick that they're going to lose is a nice pick. You would like to have it, but it's not like you're going to be crying about it if you do make the playoffs and you're closing this strong, especially if they get up to like the sixth season, which is totally possible. Nobody saw that coming and that would be a huge win big picture for them.
Sharp: And you're right that basically if you're trying to tank your way out of the playoff race you just going to have to send Patrick Beverley home, and you're going to have to send Lou Williams home, and just get rid of those like Jerome Robinson. That's a good point that all of this is purely theoretical among blog boys and the guys in that locker room are just not going to lay down.
Golliver: And you know who else doesn't want to tank? Doc Rivers, right? He's pretty competitive.
Sharp: That's who I was thinking of. Doc is not going to d--- around and be like, 'We could really use that extra asset in the AD trade.' That just doesn't seem like his style.
Golliver: I love how you have him not wanting to use that draft pick because we know he won't want to use that draft pick.
Sharp: Doc Rivers has not used a draft pick in at least 10 years, which is more reason to love him.
Golliver: Just a takeaway point from this discussion. Watch the Clippers games. I've had to sit through a lot of Lakers games, they've been miserable lately, starting with Saturday's game against the Celtics. It was just an utter waste of time. There's no other way to put it. The Clippers games have been incredibly entertaining and fun to watch in person, on television. If you're not watching them, give them a watch.
Sharp: And for anyone on the East Coast who can't stay up until 1 a.m. to watch the Clippers, you should at least make sure you wake up and see what Patrick Beverly had to say the night before. I didn't see Patrick Beverley's Paul George attacks for a while but they really brightened up my afternoon. I was like, 'You know what? Patrick Beverley has lifetime immunity with me.' He's just the best.