The NBA has completed its first calendar month of the season, and the Clippers have emerged as the team with the best record in the league. They have the best offensive rating in the NBA and the 14th-best defense, per Cleaning the Glass, though they have steadily improved on that end. Over the last two weeks, the Clippers boast the second-best defense in the league, adding a deadly complement to their offensive prowess.
With that in mind, how does the national media view the Clippers relative to the other contenders in the NBA?
This week: 1st | Last week: 2nd
The past week commenced with the Clippers embarking on a six-game swing with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George entering quarantine and Patrick Beverley (knee) out. While the Clippers had a seven-game winning streak snapped in Atlanta, they got Leonard and George back after missing just two games because of contact tracing. Now they’ve started a new streak. Tyronn Lue is pushing the right buttons, Reggie Jackson has stepped up for Beverley and the Clippers’ chemistry is forming. Next up is a big test against the Nets.
This week: 1st | Last week: 2nd
Yes, we’ll see what they do in the playoffs. But the playoffs are 3 1/2 months away, and it’s time to appreciate how good the Clippers are right now. Even without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard last week, they hung around with the Hawks and beat the Heat. And with the stars back in uniform, they thumped the Magic and registered one of the league’s most efficient performances of the season against the Knicks’ top 10 defense.
Leonard and George are both shooting better than 50% from the field, 40% from 3-point range, and 90% from the line. The Clippers have won nine straight games in which they’ve played and outscored their opponents by 19.2 points per 100 possessions in 383 total minutes with both of them on the floor.
The Clippers were still without two starters on Sunday, but Marcus Morris is finding his rhythm off the bench and Patrick Patterson just shot 5-for-5 in replacing Nicolas Batum. With Patrick Patterson out, it would be interesting to see more minutes of Luke Kennard on the floor alongside George and Leonard, but Reggie Jackson has been starting at the point and Kennard has mainly been used for playmaking when the stars go to the bench. He played just six total minutes (all in Orlando) with both George and Leonard over the weekend.
This week: 3rd | Last week: 2nd
The Clippers managed to win one of their two games this week without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, then looked back to full strength in wins over the Magic and Knicks to close out the week. Reggie Jackson went back to being an offensive focal point with the two stars out of the lineup, and he carried the momentum into Sunday’s win over the Knicks, scoring 18 points as a starter in place of Patrick Beverley.
This week: 3rd | Last week: 1st
The week started with both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George out due to COVID protocols. It caused the Clippers to drop their game to the Hawks, but they rebounded against the depleted Heat. The duo returned in time for their game against the Magic and did not miss a beat. L.A. got 26 from George and 24 from Leonard in their first game back.
The Clippers offense is clicking on all cylinders. L.A. is third in offensive rating and first in three-point percentage. With their offense so strong, the Clippers are able to survive with an average defense.
It may seem unfair to drop them from the top spot, but the teams ahead of them beat better competition last week. Only one team they faced last week had a winning record.
This week: 2nd | Last week: 2nd
The offense of the LA Clippers has been ridiculous, and the early season defensive problems are long gone. Clippers have won nine of their last 10 games, and during that stretch, they’ve gone from having the 23rd-ranked defense in the first 10 games to having the fifth-best defense in the next 11 games. That brings them all the way to tied for 10th in defense on the season and climbing. They’re shooting the 3-pointer better than any other team in the NBA, and their two stars are playing MVP level to start out the season. Ty Lue has these guys destroying right now.