The Clippers got off to a slow start to the season, stumbling to two close losses before finally earning a win against Portland. The only player to be consistently good in this small sample size is Paul George, which leaves lots of questions about the rest of the rotation.
Here’s what the national media has to say about the Clippers at the first check-in of the season.
Note: These rankings were compiled before the Clippers’ win over Portland Monday.
This week: 18th | Last week: 12th
Paul George is off to a hot start — including a 41-point performance against the Grizzlies on Saturday — but the Clippers are 0-2 after two hard-fought, close losses to Memphis and Golden State. Eric Bledsoe has been better than expected and the Clippers are going to fight every night, but they hope these first two games aren’t indicative of how things will go until Kawhi Leonard returns.
This week: 16th | Last week: 12th
Last season, the Clippers were 16-18 (0.471) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes and 31-7 (0.816) otherwise. That was, by a healthy margin, the biggest such differential in the league. And it seems their late-game luck has carried over to the new season; They lost their first two games by a total of eight points, coming up short at Golden State on Thursday (after leading by eight points early in the fourth quarter) and against the Grizzlies on Saturday.
That eight-point lead against the Warriors disappeared with a scoreless stretch of more than six minutes, but the Clippers’ larger issues have been on defense, where they rank in the bottom five in opponent effective field goal percentage, opponent free throw rate, and defensive rebounding percentage. Only two teams (Brooklyn and Boston) have allowed more points per game in transition, and the Warriors and Grizzlies combined to score an efficient 22 points on 18 clutch possessions.
Now the Clips will play two games in five days against the offense that leads the league in efficiency through Week 1.
This week: 23rd | Last week: no rankings
Their season depends on two questions: Can Paul George carry this team as a solo star? And is anyone capable of being a consistent No. 2 option? The early returns for George are encouraging (35 points/10.5 rebounds/5 assists per game). The second answer is unclear. Eric Bledsoe? Reggie Jackson? Terance Mann?
This week: 18th | Last week: 15th
I don’t fault the Clippers much for going 0-2 this week against two good teams. Curry lit them up one game, and the Grizzlies just had a very strong second half against them on Saturday night. The Clippers are trying to keep as much of this team together as they can, but missing Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka, and some of the young guys early on just doesn’t give them the depth they need. They’re playing Isaiah Hartenstein in the rotation, and that just shows the lack of interior depth. Paul George is off to a great start, and Eric Bledsoe looks a lot fresher than I remember him last season. We just need to see Reggie Jackson and Terance Mann get on track for this thing to get moving in the right direction. They fell to 18th, mostly because they just get squeezed a bit here.