When staring in a fun-house mirror, it becomes easy to wonder what one would look like in a parallel universe where everything is flipped upside down.
The Clippers, in many ways, are the fun-house mirror of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Clippers hired a dual Coach/GM to run the show as President of Basketball Operations. That President of Basketball Operations struggled to manage both tasks effectively, often valuing short term role players over younger assets and stocking the bench with players that they had prior relationships with.
Contentions with the team’s superstars led to a hard pivot, trading away players for assets. The President of Basketball Operations lost their role as GM and the team faced an uncertain path forward.
Except, in the Clippers case, their team managed to keep afloat in the process. Doc Rivers stepped down to simply serve as the coach and leave the GM duties to the powers that be (aka Jerry West).
The trades of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and now Tobias Harris have not brought back any blue-chip prospects, the Clippers have managed to strike the balance between competing now and remaining poised for the future. Of course, the built-in LA market has something to do with that.
But regardless, it is amazing to appreciate how many other teams in the NBA continue to find success through trials and tribulations while the Timberwolves flail about in the NBA backwoods. No one else seems better at it.
But onto the basketball. After defeating the ferocious Memphis Grizzlies, the Wolves are riding a stellar one-game winning streak. Going into this March stretch, it was fair to expect the Wolves to gain a few lottery points simply due to the brutal schedule. However, the two teams ahead of the Wolves, the Pelicans and the Lakers, are killing it in tanking.
While the Wolves are evaluating their league-worst defense with their league-worst max contract player, the Pelicans and the Lakers are throwing games away left and right, each time respectively 2-8 over their last ten games.
So what are the Clippers good at? Basically just taking free throws and playing uptempo. The Clippers have the 9th best offensive rating and 19th ranked defensive rating, but play at the 8th highest pace in the NBA. I’m sure that offensive rating will see an uptick after playing the Wolves.
The Clippers shoot the most free throws of any team in the NBA, but take the 28th most amount of threes even though they have the 2nd highest team three-point percentage.
The Clippers are led by quite the motley crew. Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams provide the scoring punch, with a collection of strong role players like Patrick Beverly and Montrezl Harrell cleaning things up. The Clippers have a few promising young players, such as Shai Gilgenous-Alexander and Landry Shamet, but Shamet will likely be out tonight as he recently suffered an ankle injury.
On the Wolves end, the usual cast of characters will be there. For those who subscribe to the Athletic, Britt Robson had a great profile on Dario Saric, which you can find here, talking about the ups and downs that Saric has had meshing with the Wolves. This is a game where Saric could really find his groove against a team that plays a more modern NBA-style.
We will be watching for the usual things. How much Karl-Anthony Towns is able to dominate. Which Andrew Wiggins appears on the court. How Tyus Jones looks with the starters. How comfortable Josh Okogie looks as he closes out his first year.
The finish line is within sight. For this team, it probably can’t come soon enough.
Projected Starting Lineups
Los Angeles Clippers
Have fun everyone. Our blogging friends are here at Clips Nation.