Even though the Clippers are no longer in the playoffs, the future is shining bright.
Very few teams in the NBA have more to look forward to than the LA Clippers. LA has a very talented young core, a winning culture, and max cap space & picks. It’s easy to forget that they weren’t even supposed to be in the playoffs. Their entire postseason situation was just a bonus experience that helped mold the team’s rookies.
The Young Core
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Landry Shamet, and Jerome Robinson are all going to be fantastic players in the future. Each one of them had a moment to shine in the NBA playoffs, giving the nation a moment to witness their skill. Their performances did not go unnoticed by both their teammates, and the Warriors.
“It’s amazing,” Wilson Chandler said. “Next year, [Landry Shamet, Jerome Robinson and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander] will come back more polished, more confident. I think that guys are looking at teams in free agency, you got young guys that can step up and make plays in big games, the playoffs.
On top of it being in [Los Angeles] and playing for [Doc Rivers]. That will be huge when you have big free agents looking at teams.”
It’s not a matter of just showing up in the playoffs. The three rookies had to play one of the most stacked teams in NBA history; something Lou Williams took extra consideration noticing.
“You have to give a lot of credit to those guys going against the back-to-back champs,” Williams said. “They’re young guys that we threw into the fire, and all three of those guys played well. They responded to the challenge.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, in particular, put up a spectacular performance in the playoffs, setting the Clippers’ rookie playoff scoring mark. Only 20 years old, the rookie set a career high of 25 points, and remained composed in a very difficult series. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr praised Shai’s confidence, and future.
Steve Kerr on #Clippers rookie Shai Alexander: "He's a really good player. For a rookie to come in and attack with confidence the way he did, that shows you what he's about... He's got a great future." pic.twitter.com/IgsmSeBx4n— Farbod Esnaashari ✪ (@Farbod_E) April 22, 2019
A Winning Culture
How does a team without a single all-star nomination take the defending champions, and one of the greatest teams of all time, to six games in the playoffs? The answer is in the culture. Simply put, the Clippers bought in and in believed. This team went from being predicted to win 30 games, to being swept in the first round, to having the greatest playoff comeback in the history of basketball.
Quitting is simply not in the nature of the Clippers: they want to win. It’s a personality that Warriors head coach, Steve Kerr, loves.
“I love their team,” Kerr said. “I love how they compete, fight, play for each other, that’s a beautiful basketball team. They’ve got a bright future.”
It’s rare to see a team completely devoid of egos, that has completely bought in to their coach and their roles. That’s the reason why Doc Rivers said he’s never been more proud of a team in his 20 year career.
The best summary of the Clippers culture can be seen through the words of Patrick Beverley.
“We’re here to play basketball,” Beverley said. “We’ll play hard as hell and we’re gonna leave it out on the court and that’s how we’ve been rocking since the beginning. So if we were to sum anything up, just no bullshit. Come in here, get your work done beat ass and take names.”
There’s a reason why the Clippers were able to have the biggest comeback in franchise history three times in one season. That answer is the culture. A culture that was put on notice during the NBA playoffs. The little engine that could suddenly drew praise from top players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Cap Space & Picks
Very few teams in the NBA have the perfect storm of assets that the LA Clippers do. In case you lost track, here’s a list of all the draft picks the Clippers have: 2019 second round from Portland, 2020 first round from Philadelphia, 2021 first round from Miami, 2021 second round from Detroit, and 2023 second round from Detroit.
Other than the very appealing element of coming to play in LA, one of the biggest reasons why a superstar would play for the Clippers is the fact that the franchise can pay, big; LA has set itself up with the ability to pay for two max contracts.
You can’t really go a week without hearing the LA Clippers being attached to the name of a top franchise player like Kawhi Leonard or Kevin Durant.
In a perfectly executed two years, the team has transformed itself from rebuilding to becoming a playoff-capable destination location. When you truly think about it, the 2019 NBA season could not have gone any better for the LA Clippers, despite the first round elimination. The entire world saw the young group go toe-to-toe with NBA Champions, a winning culture was established, and the team became a new fan favorite for many fans.
Make no mistake, the Clippers ship isn’t sinking after this defeat, it’s sailing in the right direction.