With the ’23-24 NBA season just days away, it’s time to get back into the mix of things. The NBA offseason, as it usually tends to be, has been filled with pure chaos. From the countless Woj and Shams tweets updating us every time James Harden or Damian Lillard has the most minor of mood swings to every NBA social media post hyping up the “generational talent” that is Victor Wembanyama, we are finally here. Across the league, transactions have been made, players have been signed, and rosters have been finalized. Powerhouses have emerged, underdogs are ready to prove themselves, and fans are anxious as ever to get the season underway and watch their favorite players get to work.
From a birds-eye view, the Western Conference is stacked. When you put on your metaphorical binoculars and actually zoom in, it is most definitely still stacked. The Nuggets kept their championship core. The Suns added an elite scorer in Bradley Beal as well as rounding out their depth very effectively with the little money they had to spend adding pieces like Grayson Allen and Nurkic. The Lakers signed Gabe Vincent, Jaxson Hayes, and Christian Wood amongst others to help LeBron and AD. The Grizzlies added Marcus Smart, Spurs drafted Wembanyama, and Rockets signed Dillon Brooks and Fred VanVleet. Gone are the nights that you can look at your team’s schedule and just assume your team has an “easy” win. Every night, either a solidified veteran or a young bull is going to be coming at your squad’s throat. The NBA has never been more competitive and I cannot wait to get to it.
Now that we have an idea of what the scope of the league looks like it, let’s focus back on the Clips. This is a big year. In fact, this might be the biggest year under the 213 era in terms of the stakes. Kawhi Leonard (32) and Paul George (33) are both eligible to sign 4-year max extensions this summer. From a financial perspective, the Clippers have some serious thinking to do. If the Clippers finish the season riddled with injury, do they pull the plug on the 213 era? On the flip side, if the Clippers finally put together a season of continuity and make a deep run in the playoffs, do they run it back? The answer is, unfortunately, not too simple.
Understanding that they need to make a final push to essentially have an “all-in” approach, the Clippers have been linked to many possible trades this off-season. The most prevalent of which is none other than the disgruntled and polarizing superstar James Harden. Harden, the league-leader in assists last year at 10.7 per game, has shamelessly publicly denounced the 76ers organization as well as their President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey, saying that he “will never be a part of an organization that (Morey) is a part of.” Another very interesting wrinkle is that Harden has made it publicly known that he wants to be dealt to the LA Clippers to team up with his former teammate Russell Westbrook as well as Kawhi and PG. Harden feels strongly that the 76ers organization has wronged him, especially since he signed a team-friendly deal last year that allowed the 76ers to increase their depth in hopes of a playoff push. With that in mind, and the fact that the 76ers still have not traded him to his preferred destination, Harden has sat out of practices, preseason games, and his status is in question for the beginning of the ’23-24 season.
From the Clippers side of things, it’s been complicated. They have shown interest, but the 76ers have been asking for quite a hefty haul in a potential trade package for Harden. The biggest roadblock in these talks? The clippers reluctance to include their prized Swiss-army knife of a forward in Terance Mann. This move has caused some divide amongst Clipper fans as some of them want the Clippers to cash in their chips and pull the trigger on the trade, while others feel as if the baggage that Harden comes with is simply not worth it. Despite these exhausting debates, all that the Clippers can do right now is look at who they do have and control the controllable.
Alright, back to the actual squad. The Clippers are starting the season with a fun team. Last year, to begin the year, it was a mess. Our point guard was an extremely inefficient John Wall and our backup center was essentially a vacant spot. This year, we have Russell Westbrook coming back, Mason Plumlee to hold down the backup center spot, and an extremely exciting young guard in Bones Hyland who has shown some incredibly exciting bursts in the playoffs last year and in the preseason this year. As the team has been preparing for the season, the energy has been visible amazing. The vibes are at an all time. I’ve genuinely never seen so many pictures/videos of Kawhi smiling. It is extremely wholesome.
Unfortunately, wholesome moments during practices can only get you so far. It can be all sunshine and rainbows, but once the players step on to the 94 feet of hardwood and the ball is tipped, that’s when we will see who wants it more. The biggest thing that we need to focus on is taking the regular season seriously. We can’t start playing like a team when there’s 10 games left to the playoffs, because at that point, you are fighting to avoid the play-in. I will say, however, that I really like this squad. I genuinely believe that Russell Westbrook’s downhill attack will be extremely beneficial for the team, especially Paul George. Also, Ty Lue just named Terance Mann, the fifth starter which has been long overdue. I think his dynamic approach to the game will do a lot of great things for the team and open up a lot of new opportunities to move on the fast break and get 2nd chance opportunities off the glass.
Before the season begins, I’m going to give my 3 key numbers that I believe will lead to our success. If we can hit these numbers, I truly believe we can unlock our full potential.
10: I need Paul George to take 10+ 3’s a game. It seems like a big number but it’s not. PG is too talented of a shooter to not hit this number. If he does, I can almost gurantee that he will average 25+ ppg this season. I also think that a full season of Russell Westbrook driving to the lane and dishing out for an open 3 will do wonders for his numbers.
30: I need Terance Mann to play at least 30 minutes per game. Last opening night, Mann had an incredibly brief 5 minutes of playing time. Fast forward a year later, he will be starting for the Clips. I genuinely believe that every time he steps on the court, he impacts the game in a positive way, even if the shot isn’t falling
0: This number is easily the most far-fetched of the three, but I am going to need 0 major injuries to the team. When it’s all said and done, people will look back at this team with the massive dark grey cloud that are injuries. It has plagued us in the past, and all I ask in the future is just one season of health. That’s not too much, right?
Overall, I cannot wait for hoops to return. The off-season has been way too long, but it’s finally coming to a close. Top tier talent from around the world going at it every single night. What’s better than watching that?