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The Clippers are the strangest average team

A .500 record has the Clippers in 17th place in the national power rankings.

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Los Angeles Clippers v Washington Wizards Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

The Clippers have had a fairly tumultuous season between injuries and health and safety protocols. They experience wild swings within games, win contests that seem out of reach and lose to teams below them in the standings. This team is oddly dramatic — and yet, they are just about average by every statistical indicator.

Zoom in on the team, and you can find reasons for real optimism or real pessimism. But big picture? Until Kawhi and PG come back, this is a solid middle of the pack team, as evidenced by this week’s power rankings.


This week: 18th | Last week: 19th

No Kawhi Leonard. No Paul George. And yet the Clippers not only remain in the West playoff race with a 26-26 record, they’ve proved beyond any doubt they will continue to fight no matter what the odds are. Ty Lue’s team has won three of its past four, including coming back from 35 down to stun the Wizards in Washington on Tuesday. During this month alone, the Clippers have won three games after coming back from 24 or more down, becoming the first team to win three such games in the past 25 seasons. Luke Kennard is playing like the versatile guard that the Clippers envisioned when they gave him a four-year, $64 million deal in 2020. The team’s chemistry is growing, and the Clippers’ defense has been stingy, holding high-scoring Charlotte to 90 points on Sunday. The Clips will end their eight-game road trip on Monday in Indiana, before returning home to face the Lakers on Thursday.

This week: 18th | Last week: 22nd

In games they trailed by at least 24 points, the Clippers are 3-5. The rest of the league is 2-197. The Clippers’ latest crazy comeback came Tuesday in Washington, when they trailed by 35(!) late in the second quarter and scored 85 points on their final 59 possessions (1.44 per), with Luke Kennard scoring seven points in the final nine seconds. Kennard now has more clutch 3s this season (he’s 7-for-11) than he had through his first four years in the league (6-for-19).

The Clippers have won seven of their last 12 games, even though they’ve been outscored by 17.8 points per 100 possessions with Reggie Jackson, Amir Coffey and Ivica Zubac (the three guys who’ve started all 12 games) on the floor together over that stretch. There was no huge comeback in Charlotte on Sunday, but the Clips won by 25 with their starting lineup registering a plus-2 in its 18.6 minutes. Justise Winslow still can’t shoot — he’s 18-for-68 (26%) from outside the restricted area — but the Clippers have allowed just 85.9 points per 100 possessions in his 111 minutes on the floor over the 7-5 stretch.

The Clippers’ eight-game trip wraps in Indiana on Monday. When the two teams met in L.A. two weeks ago, it was (strangely, given where the Clips rank on both ends of the floor) one of three games this season in which both teams scored more than 130 points per 100 possessions.

Sports Illustrated

This week: 18th | Last week: 20th

Tyronn Lue might not get many votes for Coach of the Year, given the Clippers’ record, but he needs to be in the discussion for what this team is doing without its two biggest stars. No Kawhi Leonard since last spring. No Paul George since Dec. 22. And yet here they are, hanging in at .500, with a blowout win over the Hornets on Sunday, and solid wins this month over the Hawks, Nuggets, Wizards and Sixers.

The Athletic

This week: 14th | Last week: 16th

Any All-Star locks? None. The LA Clippers do not have any All-Star locks because Kawhi Leonard has missed the entire season and Paul George has missed a bunch of games and will continue to miss games. Usually, you’d Sharpie in Leonard and George as two locks to make the weekend for their team.

Any All-Star fringes? Should George still get selected as a reserve, even if he’s just going to get replaced? The reason I ask is because PG was phenomenal when he played this season. He wasn’t shooting well, especially toward the end of his healthy time, because of the elbow injury. He was just too banged up to keep things consistent. He still played excellently, and his numbers are very impressive. He’s also only played half the season for the Clippers, and he’s not expected to be back by the All-Star break. Maybe that gives the coaches incentive to select him as a reserve, knowing it’s not taking a spot. Perhaps that’s overthinking it, but coaches do love him.

Any other weekend participants? I can’t imagine we have anybody from the Clippers participating in the Saturday events. I guess maybe we could consider Luke Kennard for the 3-point contest, but even that seems like a stretch.