Three Reasons why the LA Clippers can Win the 2020 NBA Finals
Following a four-month delay, the NBA is finally expected to resume on July 30. Things will look a lot different once teams arrive in Orlando, but one thing that shouldn't change is the LA Clippers' shot at winning the franchise's first-ever championship.
Ever since LA managed to add the superstar duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last July, the Clippers have been among those favored to be the ones hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy upon conclusion of the NBA Finals. Almost a year later, that still hasn't changed.
So as teams prepare to make the trip down to Walt Disney World, we take a look at three reasons why the Clippers can win what will likely go down as the most unorthodox NBA Finals in history.
Reason No. 1: Kawhi Leonard and Paul George
The LA Clippers put everything they had into acquiring Leonard and George last summer, including trading away a plethora of future draft picks and an up-and-coming star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. That gamble will only pay off if the team can win a title with its new superstar duo leading the way.
Fortunately, Leonard and George have been exceptional together — even though they haven't spent much time together on the court.
Out of 64 regular-season games, Leonard and George played together in just 32. In those games, the Clippers went 24-8 and outscored opponents by an average of 8.4 points per game.
In total, the two have played just over 760 minutes together this year and have outscored opponents by 11.2 points per 100 possessions. By comparison, LeBron James and Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers have played 1,319 minutes together and have a 10.7-point advantage over opponents per 100 possessions.
Numbers aside, though, there's no other duo in basketball that can do what Leonard and George can.
These are, arguably, two of the 10 best players in the NBA. Both are terrific on both ends of the floor, both can score from anywhere on the court, and both tend to save their best for the postseason.
Clippers fans have already seen what a healthy Leonard can do this season. Now that George says he's finished rehabbing his shoulders, they'll get to see PG at his best, too — and it couldn't have come at a better time.
Reason No. 2: The Bench
The LA Clippers have an incredible starting unit — Patrick Beverley, Marcus Morris and Ivica Zubac are all great complementary pieces to put next to Leonard and George — but the reserves truly set this team apart from the rest.
Of course, you can't have this discussion without mentioning Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. On an individual level, hardly any other bench players can match their output. Together, they've become one of the most lethal pairings in the league, executing the pick-and-roll to perfection.
There's also Landry Shamet, a 23-year-old sharpshooter who scores the fifth-most points per game for LA. He's connected on 39.2% of his three-pointers and 69.0% of his looks at the rim this season and has proven to be effective in clutch situations.
LA gets good production out of Reggie Jackson and JaMychal Green as well, both of whom are efficient from deep and can start when necessary. Green was especially useful for the Clippers against the Golden State Warriors during the 2019 Playoffs, averaging 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game and making 52.2% of his looks from beyond the arc.
It's a small sample size since Jackson made his Clippers debut after the All-Star break, but this group of five — Jackson, Williams, Shamet, Harrell and Green — has outscored opponents by 37.7 points per 100 possessions.
The rotation will certainly tighten up a bit once the postseason rolls around, but almost all of LA's bench players are good for a quick bucket and could provide some relief for players struggling with foul trouble or a difficult matchup.
Reason No. 3: The Culture
For the first time in forever, the LA Clippers believe they can win a championship.
For years, the franchise had tried — and failed — to field a roster capable of winning an NBA title. The team's efforts were almost always stopped by former owner Donald Sterling, who refused to shell out the money necessary to build a title-contending power.
Fortunately, that's not an issue anymore. Steve Ballmer took Sterling's old spot in 2014, and the Clippers haven't been "the Clippers" ever since.
Ballmer is enthusiastic and willing to do what it takes to take his team to the championship. He's invested in a new front office, he's bet heavily on the coaching staff, and he helped create the pitch that brought Leonard and George to Los Angeles.
Earlier this month, George told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski why he feels confident in LA's chances, and it has a lot to do with the culture that's been established:
"I'm extremely confident. I feel we have the roster, we have the coach, we have the owner, we've got the city. I'm extremely confident in what we can do... The team is only getting healthier and we got championship DNA from our coaching staff to our roster. Championship DNA within our locker room and within our building. We know what it takes, and we're excited to get it going."
Obviously it takes more than a winning mindset to compete for a title, but the Clippers have all the other pieces in place. All LA needs now is a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work to win the franchise's first ring this summer.