The 2020-21 NBA season is set to tip-off on Dec. 23. To get you ready for the year to come, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Today, the LA Clippers take the spotlight.
2019-20 season record
49-23, 2nd in the Western Conference
Daniel Oturu, No. 33 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft
Jay Scrubb, No. 55 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft
Serge Ibaka, Free Agency (Toronto Raptors)
Luke Kennard, Trade (Detroit Pistons)
Landry Shamet, Trade (Brooklyn Nets)
Rodney McGruder, Trade (Detroit Pistons)
JaMychal Green, Free Agency (Denver Nuggets)
Montrezl Harrell, Free Agency (Los Angeles Lakers)
Johnathan Motley, Free Agency (Phoenix Suns)
Joakim Noah, Waived
|PG||Patrick Beverley||Reggie Jackson||Ky Bowman||Terrance Mann|
|SG||Paul George||Lou Williams||Luke Kennard|
|SF||Kawhi Leonard||Nic Batum||Jay Scrubb||Amir Coffey|
|PF||Marcus Morris Sr.||Patrick Patterson||Mfiondu Kabengele|
|C||Serge Ibaka||Ivica Zubac||Daniel Oturu|
3 key storylines
Which version of Paul George will we see?
Following the blockbuster acquisitions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last season, the LA Clippers immediately vaulted into the top tier of teams in the league, going into championship mode in Year 1.
Things didn't entirely pan out as expected, losing to the Denver Nuggets in the second round and for George especially, the season was a struggle, averaging just 21.5 points per game - his lowest output over a full year since the 2012-13 season, his third in the league.
From adapting to a new role to a combination of injuries, George was unable to recapture the form that saw him finish third in MVP voting the season prior with the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he averaged 28.0 points per game.
"The way I was being used - Doc was trying to play me as a Ray Allen or a JJ Redick, all pin-downs. I can do it, but that ain't my game," George said on a recent appearance on All The Smoke. "I need some flow, I need some mixes of pick-and-rolls, I need some post-ups, just different touches. That last season was just hard overall."
At his best, George is still one of the most devastating two-way players in the league, and for new head coach Ty Lue, getting PG back to his perennial All-Star form will be the catalyst to success in 2020-21.
The Serge Ibaka effect
With Montrezl Harrell now on the other side of the STAPLES Center, the Clippers were in need of a big man capable of filling in his production, but also boosting their defence, an area which became an evident need during their playoff run in the bubble, especially against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.
Enter Serge Ibaka.
While Harrell's energy and production off the bench will be missed, Ibaka's presence gives the Clippers a more versatile look in the frontcourt, with his elite rim protection, floor spacing, and the defensive flexibility to switch out onto the perimeter.
Last season, the 31-year-old big man connected on 38.5 percent from the 3-point line on 3.3 attempts per game, with his threat from deep set to open up the lane for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Not only are the Clippers adding a playoff-tested veteran, but his relationship with Leonard, who he won a ring with in Toronto, could prove invaluable given the locker room issues that appeared to unsettle them during the post-season.
Playing alongside Leonard in Toronto, Ibaka enjoyed one of his most productive seasons to date, averaging 15 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.4 blocks per game on 52.9 percent shooting from the field.
Is their bench strong enough?
The hallmark of the Clippers in recent seasons has been their firepower off the bench, thanks largely to the play of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell.
Last season, the Clippers' second unit led the league in scoring, averaging a whopping 50.3 points per game, but with plenty of fresh faces on board, will they be able to replicate that production?
With a likely unit of Williams, Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson, Nic Batum, and potentially Ibaka, depending on new head coach Ty Lue's rotations, on paper they have solid contributors at each position, however, a lot of the scoring burden will again fall on Williams.
The three-time Sixth Man of the Year, averaged 18.2 points per game during the regular season, dropping to 12.8 points during the playoffs. If the 34-year-old continues to get buckets, he alone could help build similar production from the reserves
5 games to watch
Denver Nuggets, Dec. 26
After letting a 3-1 lead slip against the Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs, the Clippers will be more than motivated when these two teams face off in 2020-21.
Los Angeles Lakers, Dec. 23
What better way to tip off the season with the Western Conference matchup many expected in the bubble. The Clippers got the best of the Lakers on opening night last season, but after a busy off-season following their championship win, the Lakers are coming back with an even more stacked roster.
LeBron vs Kawhi is always appointment viewing.
Toronto Raptors, TBD (Second half of season)
For Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka, they'll be facing off against their former Toronto teammates. Last season the Clippers won both of their matchups against the Raptors and there will be even more spice in this one, now that Ibaka is a Clipper.
Dallas Mavericks, Dec. 28
One star duo taking on a star duo of the future in Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. The Mavericks made the Clippers sweat in their first-round playoff series, pushing them to six games, despite Porzingis only playing in Game 1.
Golden State Warriors, Jan. 7
These two teams have had plenty of intense meetings over the last few years, across various iterations of the respective teams. With the balance of power now in the Clippers' favour, a matchup against the new-look Warriors led by Steph Curry, will no doubt create a new chapter of the rivalry between these division foes.
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