Clippers and Lakers are more like roommates than rivals. They share the same tag, they have the same passive aggressive arguments about things that happened long ago, and they generally avoid each other as much as possible. In their 34 seasons together in Los Angeles, Clippers and Lakers have never been the top 4 seeds of the Western Conference at the same time and have never faced each other in a playoff series. It can all change soon.
With Anthony Davis joining LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard with Paul George, Lakers and Clippers are finally on a collision course. Here's how they match:
LAL: Rajon Rondo, Danny Green, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Fetters
LAC: Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet, Paul George Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pave, JaVale McGee, Quinn Cook, Alex Caruso
LAC: Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Maurice Harkless, Jerome Robinson, Mfiondu Kabengele
LAL : Jared Dudley, Troy Daniels
LAC: Rodney McGruder, Terance Male
LAL: ] We have to go back only one season (201
LAC: Doc Rivers probably does not receive sufficient credit for its offensive schemes. In its six seasons in Los Angeles, Clippers have never finished off the top 10 offensive, despite very different levels of talent. George (second in points per game last season) and Leonard (sixth in PPG) are used to making the big promise offensive and with three other role players who will not create their own shot in the expected start five, it needs not much to change. However, unlike other teams with two stars, Clippers will not have to stress over dizzying minutes thanks to Lou Williams' presence and his pick-and-roll partnership with Montrezl Harrell in the other unit. The ability to create more dribbling penetration with smaller lineups and burn teams that send too much help gives Clippers a small edge.
LAL: After completing last season 29 in 3 point percent, the Lakers will again invest heavy minutes in multiple players (Davis, Cousins, Rondo, Kuzma, Caldwell-Pope, McGee) who shoots under 35 percent behind the curve of their career. Although the additions to the rear end of the roaster (Cook, Daniels, Dudley) can give way, it is unclear how much court time they will get as specialists. Danny Green is the 3-and-D guy, the Lakers desperately need, depending on which version they get. Is he the guy who shot 45 percent last season in Toronto, or who went three straight seasons in San Antonio under 38 percent before that? Timing of Leonard's signature left limited opportunities in the free agency, but the Lakers failed to fully address their biggest weakness from last season.
LAC: Clippers ranked second in the NBA in 3 point percent (38.8), but were a low volume team (28 in 3PA). George will help on that front as he hoisted nearly 10 3s a game last season for Oklahoma City and can look good when he wants them. With Shamet (45 percent from 3 in LA) and Patrick Beverley (almost 40 percent in two seasons with Clippers) spotting out of the ball, Clippers will force teams to choose their poison: give up with a wide open 3 or play straight up two of the league's most dangerous offensive forces. This one is not close.
LAL: When Davis is motivated, his length makes him a steady protector, but he chases blocks from weak sides more often than he crosses his chest and becomes vertical. Cousins have the opposite problem: He comes in front, but he cannot lift or shoot outside his area the same way he tore his Achilles. According to cleaning the glass the 2017-18 pelicans 21 in the field target were allowed within four feet of the basket before the cousins were injured. The saving grace – something he has never been called before – can be JaVale McGee. He ranked sixth in the NBA (min: 50 game played) as a percentage of shot at the rim contested while on the floor last season and held teams to a stinging 52 percent shot. McGee could end up being a better fit for Davis in the starting line because of it.
LAC: Soak in the damage freude; Clippers were not big defensive last season, but they were ninth in the field field percent after getting Zubac from the Lakers on the trading deadline. Only Pacer's big man Myles Turner defended a higher frequency of shots than Zubac did while he was on the floor. How much he will be on the floor where Harrell offers so much more offensive is hard to say. Harrell's height limits his ability to compete, but with three of the league's best perimeter defenders (Beverley, Leonard, George) in front of him, it is worth asking: How much do you need the edge protection if no one can get there?
LAL: The Lakers will probably ease the gas in transition with Luke Walton and Lonzo Ball out of the picture, but the pendulum must not swing too far. Davis is used to playing at high speed and turning the rebounds into one-man breaks, and LeBron and Davis come downhill for defense will result in a lot of business decisions being made. The Lakers were at their best last season when LeBron went to the rim with ruthless task and the addition of Green (both offensive and defensive) will have a major impact in this setting. The Lakers may swing slightly closer to the league average in tact, but they should be significantly more effective than they were last season and will have more success attacking the defenses that are not set and packed in the paint.
LAC: Everything points to Clippers playing fast. The smaller lineups (with Harrell at 5) will be able to burn up the court. George and Leonard can both grab and go. Rivers have also embraced a faster pace over the years. All in all, it is quite common to see two superstars who have not played together before falling into the trap of turning and lowering as a result (think LeBron and Dwyane Wade in Miami or Chris Paul and James Harden in Houston). The idealized version of this team will play fast, but it will probably take time.
LAL: Lakers fans who have not had the chance to see Davis regularly are a surprise: He is almost 7 feet and shoots wrong runners more than he scores from drop steps. Davis has a smooth form of awkwardness for his post and faceup games that only one person with a unibrow could achieve. While the Lakers will not shy away from dumping it down to Davis, he is dangerous on the move. Still, you almost feel bad for the other Western conference students who have spent the last couple of years adjusting for small ball, only to be bludgeoned this season with a monster lineup with LeBron, Boogie and AD. There will always be a mouse in the house.
LAC: The block should mostly be effortless, but Leonard and George will both do their work on the elbows and punish smaller defenders all the same. Clippers will use Zubac and Harrell more as screeners and plant them along the baseline as opposed to throwing them to the block. It has been a long time since any misdemeanor treated item touches as a crucial part of the equation, but large may be on the way back. Just maybe not for Clippers.
LAL: This was known as "break time" for the Lakers veterans last season. Rondo and LeBron were the two biggest offenders, as teams quickly discovered that they would be in paint and ball clock, causing impossible long rotations for everyone else on the floor. Davis and Green will help cover many of these lapses with their foot speed and length, but Rondo is the limit game that cannot be played when he is not engaged defensively. Cook and Caruso push in time at point guard, even with their error, could be a net positive because of this area alone. If the veteran Lakers wait until the games really matter to help, they will not like the result.
LAC: Last season, Clippers 27 were in turnover and free throw rate allowed, and 25 in defensive rebounding percentage. These are three of the four factors, and the numbers indicate an underlying problem during many of the recurring roster players was too often unable to cash out, compete properly, or play past lanes. For as much as George and Leonard bring to the table, teams will still find ways to bring benefits elsewhere, and Clippers simply need to improve on how they react to them. Still, there is too much potential here to ignore.
LAL: The Lakers were actually quite solid at the point of attack last season. LeBron treats isolations against him as a personal front end, and the castaways (especially Ball and Josh Hart) defended their position at a high level. The Lakers were 13th in defensive efficiency last season, which is a bit remarkable as it was a lost season. However, there is cause for concern. Cousins will be a slow moving target in pick-and-roll situations, especially without Draymond Green covering the back. Rondo is 33 and will have to meet the Western Conference Point Guard again. Danny Green will be great on the ball, but he will be easy to avoid. The good news? That's what Frank Vogel does best. If the Lakers buy in, which is a great "if" for any LeBron team, they can be solid.
LAC: George and Leonard are the best defensive superstars duo since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen shared the floor. Bless the heart of any player who gets all the wingspan thrown at him the whole game, to see only a pit bull like Beverley in front of him on the next possession. George and Leonard do not have to look far and wide to help create a team identity. This is it.
LAL: There are few things more scary than the playoff LeBron. The acquisition of Davis, provided there is reasonable health, ensures that we will see the version of LeBron again. The Lakers may look a little different after exploring the buyout market later in the season, but LeBron has done more with less earlier. The perception of all major players on this team is at a low level, but the Lakers have the kind of talent that can be overwhelmed even the best defensive teams. Clippers are better equipped to handle injuries and have the higher floor, but the ceiling of the Lakers is just as high.
LAC: The usual things we've seen are freshly minted superteams trying to hunt, are already in place: the defensive-minded point guard who doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective ( Beverley), the deadly spot-up shooter to keep the defense honest (Shamet), the energy is great to clean up all the fairs (Harrell), the big body in the middle (Zubac) and the other unit scores that can help should load delayed games (Williams). All pieces fit around two of the league's most complete stars, which do not have to change their game to fill the gaps. Leonard can make his thing isolated from the middle of the floor and George can spot. George can come down the wing and Leonard can find the soft spots in the defense away from the ball. Both can push the transition and create gravity away from the ball or punish the swap by taking smaller defenders on the block. As long as there are viable shot threats around them, there will be a lot of poisoning going on. Having seen Leonard wear Toronto for a title, losing Clippers as favorites at this time is not unrealistic.