LA Clippers 2019-20 Preview: Expectations are the highest in franchise history

LA Clippers (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
LA Clippers (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images) /
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LA Clippers
LA Clippers Paul George Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

After a summer that changed the direction of the franchise, the LA Clippers’ expectations are the highest in franchise history. What can we expect in 2019-20?

The LA Clippers enter the 2019-20 season in uncharted territory. For the first time in franchise history, they are seen as not only championship contenders, but the favorites to many. Just how did we get here? What is a realistic expectation for this team?

In this preview, I’ll run down everything you may have missed this summer, take a look at what the guys have been working on, give a quick look around the league and will finish up with what expectations there are for the Clippers.

This preview won’t be completely bare-bones, but there will be links throughout that I highly recommend reading for more detail. Our team has worked hard all summer to cover everything that has transpired, so please don’t waste their effort.

Summer Changes

2019 NBA Draft

With free agency impending, the Clippers entered the 2019 NBA Draft with no first round picks. They managed to trade up into the first round, nabbing a center from Florida State. Mfiondu Kabengele played one year for the Seminoles but showed enough to warrant a late first round selection. His ability to stretch the floor and protect the rim fits right in line with what the Clippers needed.

In the second round, the team selected his college teammate, Terance Mann. Mann played a lot off-ball for Florida State but quickly transitioned back to point guard in Summer League. He was one of the brighter spots of the Summer League, showing the ability to score, distribute and rebound. (He finished 2nd in the entire Summer League for rebounds per game).

Free Agency

I was somewhere out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean when I awoke to my phone blowing up. All week during my family’s vacation I had been checking Twitter for any sort of indication where Kawhi Leonard would go. The ship’s WiFi didn’t make things easy (please work on this Royal Carribean), but after a couple of days at sea with no update, I got nervous. I had seen all the RDA Ambition tweets stating that Leonard to the Lakers was a done deal. I had seen a majority of role players sign deals with other teams. If we missed out on Kawhi, this team could be in trouble.

Thankfully, I woke up to possibly the best news I could have gotten. Kawhi Leonard had decided to join the LA Clippers. Not only that, but the team had also traded a trove of picks along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari for Paul George.

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Just like that, the Clippers were championship contenders.

A few other pieces had already fallen into place. Patrick Beverley had committed to re-signing with the team. Maurice Harkless had been given to the Clips in part of a three-team trade.

After the Leonard and George development, the team finished shoring up their roster by re-signing Ivica Zubac and JaMychal Green.

The addition of the two stars to a unit that took a healthy Golden State to six games was something special. With the league trending back to superstar duos, Leonard and George became arguably one of the best pairings in the league.

Leonard was coming off a Finals MVP performance, having averaged 30.5 points on 49% shooting, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.7 blocks in his outstanding postseason run. Sure, he had only played in 60 regular-season games, but after missing most of the 2017-18 season, Leonard looked to be a top-five player in the league again.

The postseason for Paul George wasn’t so glamorous. His Oklahoma City Thunder were knocked out of the first round by a Damian Lillard three. At the time, none of us knew that buzzer-beater would effectively send OKC back into rebuilding mode. Despite the postseason failure, George had an impressive regular season.

His 28.0 points per game were good enough for second in the league behind only James Harden. His defense also was elite, earning him First Team All-Defensive honors.

George and Leonard are top-tier defenders in the NBA. Having them on the roster with Beverley instantly upgraded the Clippers to one of the top defensive threats in the league. New expectations were instantly set.

New Stadium

To add to all the fanfare, the team officially announced their new stadium, set to open up in 2024. The stadium, located in Inglewood, will be 100% privately funded and will be home to the team’s new training facility.

What about the players already on the roster? What were they up to this summer?