It’s officially trade deadline season in the NBA and the Clippers are in a fascinating position. Almost 50 games into the season and the Clippers are an astoundingly mediocre 25-24, placing them at 6th in the Western Conference. They are 2 games back of the 4th seed and 2 games ahead of the… 13th seed (sigh). Definitely not an ideal position, but considering the way the Clips have been performing, it could easily be a LOT worse.
It’s been an uphill battle for the Clips since I last wrote about them. They managed to go on an impressive streak of losing 9 out of 11 games. It has been, without a doubt, brutal to watch. From Reggie Jackson to becoming a DNP (Coach’s Decision) to watching Moses Brown guard shifty point guards in the deepest drop coverage that anyone has ever seen, it has a been a roller coaster of poor performances, fluctuating from bad to worse.
Despite the many negatives, there have been a few silver linings, the most dominant being none other than Kawhi Leonard. During this injury ridden stretch, Kawhi Leonard has stepped up to the plate. ESPN analyst Brian Windhorst publicly went on air and expressed major concern regarding Kawhi’s physical capabilities and his health status. Since that quote and in his last 15 games, Leonard has averaged 25 ppg, 6.5 rbg, 4 apg while shooting 52% from 2, 42% from 3, and 88% from the FT line. In his last 7 games, he’s averaging 30 ppg. These stats are elite. Regardless of the noise that Twitter or Instagram comments make, Kawhi is looking as good as ever and will be a lethal asset to this deep team when the supporting cast finally gets healthy.
Despite Kawhi stepping up, the Clippers have still been struggling. Ty Lue has a tendency to play a 3-guard lineup that includes any combination of Reggie Jackson, John Wall, and Norman Powell which has proved to be a defensive LIABILITY. These lineups lack defense, rebounding, and just about everything else. The entire Clippers team continues to tell the media to be patient and that once they are healthy, they’ll be able to string some games together and develop good chemistry. The problem with this strategy is that they are never healthy! They just keep pushing it back and play without a sense of urgency. Unfortunately, in the state of the NBA right now, a few games of coasting can be the difference to clinching the playoffs or missing the play-in entirely.
With the trade deadline coming up, Clipper fans everywhere are making demands for the team that the financials simply cannot support. Trade targets to look out for include some type of player consolidation from the Clips to trade for a veteran guard that can control the non-Kawhi and PG minutes. The most important need, in my opinion is at the center position. If I watch Moses Brown play meaningful minutes one more time, I just might break my television.
Overall, the Clippers are not who they think they are. They aren’t the same team that made it to the WCF despite having very similar player personnel. This team is in dire need of hunger, sparks, and motivation. Hopefully Kawhi can continue to carry the burden on offense and defense while the rest of the team wakes up! Oh yeah, by the way, the Clippers have the hardest remaining strength of schedule, topping the entire league. Every game matters more than the previous one. Let’s hope the Clippers can emulate this energy that the fans are most certainly feeling.
~Michael Bannerman (twitter: @mabannerman44)