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Clippings: How much does roster continuity matter?

The Clippers mostly made an effort to run it back this year.

2021 NBA Playoffs - LA Clippers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

When the Clippers traded away Patrick Beverley in August, it left the roster with just one player who had been with the team for longer than two seasons: Ivica Zubac. At the time, it seemed like a shocking amount of turnover for the team, but on a year-to-year basis, the Clippers have actually kept their group together better than most.

John Schuhmann of NBA.com put out his annual continuity rankings, slotting teams by the number of minutes they are returning from the 2020-21 regular season. For the second straight year, the Clippers have placed in the top ten, this year coming in seventh. The Clippers are bringing back players who accounted for 81 percent of the team’s minutes during last season.

That figure is a bit misleading because Kawhi Leonard played 1,772 minutes last year, third on the Clippers, and it’s unclear if or when he will return during the regular season. If his minutes are removed, that would put the team at 71 percent continuity. Per Schuhmann, the league average has been 67 percent for the past two seasons.

But all that math may be for naught. Last year, Milwaukee was 27th in Schuhmann’s rankings and ended up winning a title. The top four teams in last year’s analysis (Indiana, Chicago, Orlando, and San Antonio) all missed the playoffs. Even this year, the projected East and West favorites in 2022, Brooklyn and the Lakers, landed 26th and 30th in the tally.

However, the top teams in this year’s rankings seem to project some hope for continuity over constant change. The top five (Phoenix, Atlanta, Denver, Utah, Philadelphia) all won at least one playoff series a year ago and figure to have similarly high hopes this year. Maybe front offices are getting better at keeping good cores together rather than constantly aiming for a mythical higher ceiling.

The Clippers did about as well as could be expected with their offseason moves, only losing one productive player, Beverley, from last year’s team. We’ll see if that continuity pays off when the regular season begins.

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