The LA Clippers weren't quite as active as other teams in the league this offseason, but they still made notable moves.
The biggest move? After seeing Montrezl Harrell leave for the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, the Clippers replaced last season's Sixth Man of the Year with Serge Ibaka, who is coming off of one of the best seasons of his career. They also traded for Luke Kennard, the No. 12 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft who averaged a career-best 15.8 points per game last season, and hired Tyronn Lue to replace Doc Rivers as the team's head coach.
It begs the question: Did the Clippers get better, worse or stay the same this offseason?
Our NBA.com Staff weighs in.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I think they got better.
Even if you're of the belief that Harrell is better than Ibaka, Ibaka is a more natural fit next to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George than Harrell. Not only because of what he brings offensively - Ibaka is one of the best shooters at the centre position, whereas Harrell scores exclusively in the paint - he's far better equipped to match up with the Nikola Jokics and Joel Embiids of the NBA, which was a problem for the Clippers in the playoffs.
Additionally, I like what Kennard brings. He made 42.2 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s last season and is more capable of making plays with the ball in his hands than Landry Shamet, who the Clippers traded to acquire Kennard. Him and Lou Williams should pick second units apart, and it wouldn't surprise me if Kennard closed some games because of the spacing he provides as a shooter, although that'll hinge on whether or not he can hang defensively.
Add the hiring of Lue, and I think the Clippers are better prepared for playoffs success than they were last season.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): They stayed the same, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
While I do agree with Scott in saying that both Ibaka and Kennard are both upgrades in terms of fit with the team, I seriously believe they will feel the absence of JaMychal Green. Green is a guy that played in over 17 minutes per game during the Clippers' playoff run and is the one player they didn't replace this offseason.
No, I don't think the Clippers' title hopes hinged on retaining JaMychal Green - I think they're just as good as last year, where they were very much capable of winning a title - but I am of the belief that their depth took a hit even though they've made some improvements at the top of their roster.
Depth is more important than ever this year and LA becoming slightly thinner could make things more difficult on Leonard and George.
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): I think they got quietly better and in my eyes, the Ibaka signing is the single reason why.
My colleague Scott already mentioned how the Spaniard is a great fit on the court. And that's great but I feel, for the Clippers, his locker room presence could be more important.
He is a veteran, who is an NBA Champion, so his voice will be heard and accepted. Most of all, given his great rapport with the team's best player, who is said to be a man of few words, Ibaka could be an extension of Kawhi Leonard's leadership within the locker room.
"We just understand each other."@sergeibaka and @kawhileonard: reunited in LA. pic.twitter.com/lKLgu26I0r- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) December 16, 2020
A couple of other factors as well. I understand the Clippers had better depth last season but I believe that was too much depth last season. This time around, they seem to have better clarity and a more thought-out rotation. Given how much better their cross-town rivals got, it's fair for the Clippers to be in the shadows but again, maybe that works out better for the team having to not deal with the burden of 'favourites'.
Benyam Kidane (@BenyamKidane): Chemistry is everything in sports and on that alone I think the Clippers are in a better place this season.
The addition of Ibaka gives them a strong presence in the paint defensively, while also being a more versattile fit with his 3-point shoting ability. Adding championship experience to the locker room cannot be underestimated.
While the key pieces of the squad remain intact, they now have a season under their belts together, giving them continuity to build off from last season's disappointing playoff exit.
I still think they will be active in the trade market to address their need for a more natural playmaker at point guard, but as currently constructed, the Clippers are a better team than last season. However, in a competitive Western Conference, we'll see if that materialises into another top 2 finish, with nearly every team in the West getting better.
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