Tracking the Trend: The Clippers are a mess

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Coming into the 2019-20 NBA season, as the reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard moved to the Clippers with another superstar Paul George, many experts picked the Los Angeles Clippers to win the championship. However, the dark horse of this year’s playoffs, the Denver Nuggets, overcame a 3-1 deficit to knock out the Clippers in the semi-conference finals. The elimination of the Clippers was a letdown, and in the status quo, the Clippers’ future is unclear. Should the current Clippers team be broken up?

Talent does not disappear overnight.

Yes, the Clippers were a big disappointment this season. Their stars did not live up to expectations, and flaws that were ignored in the regular season have been scrutinized over the past few weeks in an attempt to explain their collapse. But does this loss mean they need to rebuild their entire team when they have one of the most complete rosters in the league? The Clippers certainly did not show their full potential in the semi-conference finals, but the talent is still there.

On paper, the Clippers are undoubtedly one of the most frightening in the league: last year’s Finals MVP, two All-Defensive players, and the Sixth Man of the Year are all on the team. That is more than enough to win a championship, so why not run it back one more time? Superteams do not always win in their first year: when Lebron James went to Miami to team up with stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, they failed to win in their first season as well. Basketball, especially in the playoffs, is a complex mix of strategies and performances that is not always predictable. Perhaps the Clippers simply lost concentration and this will serve as their fuel for next year. After all, they were only one game away from winning this series anyway. However, to break up this team full of award winners, to break up this team lauded by experts throughout the year, to break up this team that was victim to a historically unprecedented run by the Denver Nuggets—is just a gross overreaction. 

The Clippers lack a championship core.

Sometimes, failure is so abysmal that it demands a complete reset. The Clippers acquired two superstars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, supported them with skilled, experienced role players, and made a run—only to fall dramatically short of expectations. With the future of this franchise in question, the right course of action for the Clippers is to break the team apart: the core of the current Clippers roster needs to change in order to win a championship. 

This was supposed to be the year for the Clippers. They traded away talented young players and several first-round picks for Paul George. They aggressively pursued trades in the middle of the season, often outbidding the Lakers in the last second. Banners were held up in Los Angeles, proclaiming that a new “king” had arrived. But none of those moves seemed to matter as the Clippers spiraled out of the playoffs, blowing several double-digit leads en route to one of the most shocking upsets in basketball history. 

Numerous problems that had been plaguing the Clippers throughout the entire season were highlighted in their playoff loss. All year, they lacked chemistry because Leonard and George were often injured or simply resting. Perhaps that was why they were unable to deliver in the biggest moments of the season. Doc Rivers, the Clippers head coach, did not come up with a defensive game plan to stop the Nuggets, and this loss was his third time blowing a 3-1 lead. His seven-year tenure as coach of the Clippers came to an end promptly after the loss. But there needs to be even more change to the team if the Clippers seek to win a championship soon. One of their superstars ought to be traded for a better piece, or they need to find a new identity over the offseason. Drastic changes of the Clippers will be necessary, and keeping the current roster will lead nowhere.