The Clippers season officially begins tonight, which means it’s prediction time. The Clips Nation staff got together to answer two questions:
1. What record do you think the Clippers finish with this season?
2. What place in the Western Conference standings do you think they will get?
1. I predict that the Clippers go 40-42 this year. It seems odd to pick a lower win total than last year, when the Clippers had a different lineup practically every game, but I do not trust the Clippers defense, at least not yet. The West is also better at the bottom, leading to fewer wins over the teams that finished below LA in the standings last season. I don’t expect the Clippers to fall too far below the playoff picture because they want to remain competitive this season to be an attractive free-agent destination in the offseason.
2. I think the Clippers finish 11th in the Western Conference.
1. I predict that the Clippers go 46-36 this year. The Clippers won 42 games last season with unusually poor health. Yes, they play in the brutal West. Yes, they may have limited star power. Yes, injuries, especially to a crucial offensive piece in Danilo Gallinari, could potentially upend a season again. All of that said, they are going to be a tough out every night, and with questions abounding for two playoff teams from 2017-18 (San Antonio and Minnesota), the Clippers should be better than a year ago. Will that be enough for a top eight seed? That’s what makes the West so interesting.
2. The Clippers will finish as one of the winningest teams in history to not make the playoffs. Forty-six wins will probably be a couple of victories short of No. 8. I have Golden State, Houston, Utah, Oklahoma City, Denver, New Orleans, the Lakers, and Spurs making it. I’m not entirely sold on the final three on that list, so I’d love to be wrong.
1. I’m sure I’m in the minority here, but I believe the Clippers will win at least 48 of their outings this season. The franchise had 42 wins in 2017-2018 despite grossly inconsistent play, a plethora of injuries and an ever-changing cast of characters. They will absolutely see more success this year, with new talent added to the roster (Shai Gilgeous Alexander, Jerome Robinson), existing talent returning (Lou Williams, Tobias Harris, Montrezl Harrell), and injured players now healthy (Patrick Beverley, Danilo Gallinari). I’m not concerned with the lack of an established “superstar”. Depth and chemistry are wildly underrated in the NBA, and I believe the Clippers will surprise many with cohesive and scrappy play.
The fact that defensive intensity and transition offense are the foci this season should make fans optimistic. The Clippers’ defense last year was dismal, ranking 24th of 30 in points allowed per game (109.0) and achieving a defensive rating of 110.2 (20thof 30). With Beverley and Avery Bradley on the floor to set the tone this season, the Clippers’ defense should fare much better against the prolific backcourts in the league. On the other end of the floor, if pre-season performance is any indication, the Clippers will continue to maximize their youth, speed, and multiple scoring options by pushing the ball and engaging in unselfish play.
2. It will undoubtedly take 45+ wins to make it to the playoffs in the stacked West, and I believe the Clippers will make the cut as one of the bottom four seeds in the conference. Last season, the Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs landed the seventh and eighth seeds with 47-35 records.
Although the top two teams in the Western Conference are not anticipated to change from last season (Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors), there are a few teams I believe will fare less successfully this time around and may struggle to make the playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs are plagued with injuries and are anticipated to start the season without Rudy Gay, Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, and Lonnie Walker IV. After losing Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, and Tony Parker this summer, these injuries do not bode well for the Spurs’ immediate future. In Minnesota, ongoing discontent and drama may impact the Timberwolves’ performance regardless of whether they hold on to Jimmy Butler. The New Orleans Pelicans may not be as competitive without DeMarcus Cousins, and the Portland Trail Blazers, who performed beyond expectations last season, may not do as well in 2018-2019 with its largely unremarkable roster. None of these teams is a shoo-in for playoff contention. Additionally, and this must be said, contrary to the Lakers’ hype machine, the addition of LeBron James does not make the purple and gold an instant playoff contender.
1. If the Clippers are healthy they could go 45-37. They managed to go 42-40 last season while missing nearly 4-6 starter all season. There is a chance that could just be considered a fluke, but it still happened. However if they aren’t healthy, they may end up around 37-45. They just don’t have enough offensive firepower if Gallinari goes down. The team only has two players that average 20+ a game in Gallinari and Harris.
2. If they’re healthy they are in the mix for the 8th/9th seed. If the Clippers are injury plagued they’ll end up around the 10th/11th seed. I think they’ll be in roughly the same tier as the Timberwolves, Blazers, and Pelicans.
1. My prediction for the Clippers record is 45-37. Call me an optimist, but I don’t see how a team that finished with a winning record last season, and added talent, can get worse. On top of this, the Clippers were one of the most injured teams in the NBA last year and only had a combined 70 games from Pat Bev, Gallo, Tobias, and Avery Bradley: the majority of their starting lineup this season. Last season, they won 42 games with a 31 year old sixth man as their best player, multiple two-way players getting big minutes, and 30+ different starting lineups. If the Clips can stay healthy this year, they will win games and compete. Tobias is squarely in his early prime, Gallo is healthy, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looks to be a revelation, Lou is still great, the bench is really strong, and Doc knows this team well. Despite the lack of star power (although Tobi will make the next step this season into this mold I believe), this is an impressive team and will surprise prognosticators this season.
2. This record will place them a half game into the playoffs, or a half game out. It is going to come down to the last day for the Clippers. Only two wins separated 3-8 last season in the Western Conference standings, and 47 wins was the magic number. With the West even more competitive this season, I expect every team to win less games. I therefore think 45 will be the magic number this season, and the Clippers can get there with some injury luck for the squad and competitive play.
1. The Clippers go 38-44.
2. This puts them in 10th place.
1. Last year, the Clippers finished just above .500 (42-40). I believe they will be better than last year by about 4-6 games for two reasons. First, the roster is better, should be healthier, and has now had a chance to learn how to play together. Second, I think the Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, and Pelicans will be worse than last year (the Lakers getting better counteracts some of this).
2. As I said above, I think the Timberwolves will miss the playoffs and that the Pelicans and/or Blazers will try to trade their star players and begin a rebuild. The Lakers, however, will probably be a top 5 seed -- much better than last year -- and will probably leave the Clippers around the 7 or 8th seed.
1. The Clippers will finish the season with a 43-39 record. Predicting the Clippers’ record this season has never been more interesting, simply because they are so well-equipped for a wide variety of outcomes. At their best, given they remain absolutely healthy and find ways to really bolster their roster by the trade deadline, the Clippers have the potential to be a 50-win team. At their worst, assuming injuries become an ongoing factor and impactful veterans get moved for assets by the trade deadline, they could finish the season with as few as 30-ish wins. What probably ends up happening is a result somewhere in-between these extremes.
The Clippers will undoubtedly face injuries, especially given their collective injury history and their emphasis on pace. Their roster has also gotten quite a bit younger. But 2019 free agency will likely play a major role in their desire to remain as competitive as possible; rather than simply selling suitors on the weather and cap space, the Clippers will want to show they have laid a foundation to win now and for years to come. Remaining at least relevant in the stacked Western Conference would be a great start. While there’s probably at least the temptation to explore a scenario where they send out lots of starting-caliber talent in exchange for assets, it just doesn’t fit the mould of Steve Ballmer’s organization as constructed.
2. The Clippers will finish in 8th place in the Western Conference this season. While the Western Conference is certainly loaded with talent, there are enough factors at play to upset the competitive balance between now and April. The drama surrounding Jimmy Butler and the Minnesota Timberwolves, the mass exodus of Spurs veterans, and the downgrades in personnel for the Pelicans and the Trailblazers all carve a path for some fresh faces in the West.
1. I think that the Clippers finish the season with a record of 43-39. I was originally a bit lower on them, but the Wolves’ dysfunction and the Spurs’ myriad of injuries has pushed the Clippers up a bit. They are deep, they are tough, and they have talent, but I really do believe that the NBA is a star-driven league, and that the Clippers lack one unless Tobias Harris makes a leap. Night in and night out they will be competitive, but that lack of a go-to scorer could cost them in close games against playoff teams.
2. 43 wins is pretty good, easily enough to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. But in the West, I think that’s just not quite enough to reach the postseason. I have the Clippers coming in 9th this season, falling just a couple games shy of the playoffs for the second year in a row. However, I think their making the playoffs is by no means an impossible goal. If they stay healthy and one or two teams ahead of them are beset by injuries or have chemistry problems, the Clippers could absolutely snag a postseason berth.