It’s the final week of the regular season, and if we’ve learned anything about the Clippers from the last 20 weeks, it’s that we really can’t learn anything about them until the playoffs. The Clippers have made meaningful changes to their offensive scheme and rotations over the course of the season, they’ve had some marquee wins, and they’ve showed resilience in the face of injury adversity. All of that was enough to earn them homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but not much beyond that.
The latest NBA power rankings try to reckon with a Clippers team that isn’t currently playing its best, even if this group still has the talent and depth to compete with everyone else in the league. Will everything finally come together in the postseason? We’re about to find out.
Note: These rankings were compiled before the Clippers beat Toronto Tuesday night.
This week: 7th | Last week: 7th
The Clippers are getting closer to full strength, and that is a good thing, because they aren’t close to playing their best basketball right now. They looked like they were stuck “in mud,” as Kawhi Leonard put it, after Sunday’s home loss to the Knicks, and they have lost four of their past six as they hit the road for the final four games of the regular season. Leonard admitted he has a hand issue to go with the foot injury he recently returned from. But Serge Ibaka could finally be nearing a return, as he could join the team on the trip. While the Clippers are battling the Nuggets for the third seed, Ty Lue’s biggest goal is to get everyone on the same page, figure out the rotation, develop chemistry and improve the defense entering the playoffs.
This week: 6th | Last week: 5th
The Clippers got Patrick Beverley back last week and, more importantly, have had both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard for each of their last four games. But they’ve lost two of the four, failing to slow down the Nuggets’ offense and failing to score against the Knicks’ defense after strong starts (first-quarter, double-digit leads) in both games. Their record when they’ve had both George and Leonard (30-11, .732) is very similar to what it was last season (27-10, .723).
The Clippers again have all the shooters they might need (a league-high seven guys who’ve shot 38% or better on at least 100 3-point attempts), and Serge Ibaka’s return would allow them to put even more shooting on the floor. But their overall resume isn’t quite as strong as it was last season, when they ranked in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The next couple of months in Clipperland could tell us something about the value of intangibles.
With Denver holding the tiebreaker, the Clippers need to stay a game ahead of the Nuggets to keep the No. 3 seed, which may or may not come with a first-round matchup against the Lakers. The Clippers are the only West team that doesn’t have any remaining games against teams currently over .500. They’re 24-6 (10-3 on the road) against the 14 teams currently below .500, including 8-0 against the teams they play this week.
This week: 5th | Last week: 5th
The Clippers beat the Raptors and blew out the Lakers to start the week, before dropping a close one to the Knicks on Sunday. Kawhi Leonard took only 13 combined shots in the first two games of the week, but made up for it with 26 field goal attempts in the loss to New York, though he only made nine of them. The Clippers and Nuggets will jostle for the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in the West over the final week of the regular season.
This week: 9th | Last week: 8th
The Clippers finished their week with a loss to the Knicks but went 2-1 for the week. The loss put them a game ahead of the Nuggets for No. 3 in the West with four to go, all on the road. The team is just getting healthy and are just waiting on Serge Ibaka to get to the lineup to be complete.
One thing that hurt the Clippers last week was their sloppiness with the ball. They averaged 17.7 turnovers and gave up 22.3 points off those turnovers. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Rajon Rondo each averaged three turnovers. Even though they pulled out wins last week, L.A. certainly made it tougher on themselves.
On the flip side, L.A. has been the best shooting three-point team all season. They lead the league in three-point percentage (41.6). The Clippers have 10 players shooting above 40 percent from deep on a minimum of one attempt, with Leonard just on the outside at 39.8 percent.
Taking better care of the ball and continuing to shoot the three-ball well will help the Clippers to close the season strong and get focused on the playoffs.
This week: 6th | Last week: 8th
Where they started the season: 4th
What changed from preseason assessment? I wouldn’t say much of anything has changed. Missing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for quite a few games hurts our ability to assess where this team is. Lue’s new offense for them has taken away some of the stagnation, but we’re still waiting to see a full squad for the Clippers with an extended stretch of play. As always with the Clippers, we won’t really know where to put this team until we see how they do in the playoffs.