June 5, 2019, 2:38 am
Let’s be frank about what the Clippers managed to achieve this season: they exceeded expectations as much as anybody. Take ESPN’s BMI projected wins from their preseason power rankings, for example. Their projections had the Clips slated to win 37.1 games, a full 11 games below where they winded up finishing their season. The only teams that exceeded those projections more were the Bucks, Blazers and Kings, who all finished 13 games above their projected win totals.
What really makes the Clippers’ run stick out relative to those teams is the fact that they did so in implausible scenarios. On the year they trotted out 14 different starting lineups, rostered 22 different players, started a rookie PG for the majority of their games and traded away arguably their best player mid-season. Making the playoffs in the juggernaut that is the Western Conference with all of those factors considered sounds closer to a bad Hollywood script than it does and actual NBA season, but for the Clippers, it was a reality they were more than happy to bask in.
Now, all attention will be turned to the 2019 offseason which has as many implications for this team (spoiler alert: this won’t be the last time I mention this) as any in the league. Regardless, no matter what happens this summer, this Clippers’ season will go down as one for the ages.
2018-19 record: 48-34 | 8th in Western Conference
The Clippers’ season was really one of two different teams. There was the pre-trade deadline group who exceeded expectations, and the post-trade deadline group who exceeded those expectations even further.
The Clips started the year hot, quickly jumping out to a 15-6 start through the first full month of the season. They caught good teams by surprise, defended their home court and flashed versatility from all positions. While many accurately figured that this would not last throughout the year, it was immediately clear that this team was being underestimated.
Eventually, they began to regress back towards the mean. Their inability to defend the paint was glaringly apparent, they were unable to figure out their woes on the road and they suffered a litany of injuries to their core guys. At just over the midway point of their season the Clippers were barely holding onto a playoff berth.
Then the trade deadline happened. Tobias Harris was shipped off to Philly, signaling to many that the Clippers were prepared to pivot towards the offseason instead of battling it out for the last spot in the playoffs… at least that is what appeared to be the case.
Following their trade deadline moves the Clippers went on to go 18-9, securing a playoff spot and winning six more games than they did the previous season. In the playoffs, the Clippers would continue their expectation-shattering run by being a formidable opponent to the Warriors in round one, including a historic 31-point comeback to steal Game 2. They were ultimately dispatched in six games, but not without the fanfare and recognition that they deserved as the result of a truly successful season.
To truly acknowledge the where the success in this season lies, however, one needs to give credit where credit is due and pay attention to the work done by the front office dating as far back as last year. The organization, under the direction of Jerry West and Lawrence Frank, made the decision to pivot from the Blake Griffin era in what ended up being one of the stealthiest rebuilds in recent memory.
Consider the totality of the Blake Griffin trade. Here is the full list of players and assets they now have both as a direct result from the initial trade and the other players and assets they acquired through trading the players Detroit sent them:
Blake Griffin and two 2nd round picks for…
- DET 2019 1st round pick (traded for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander)
- Tobias Harris → Landry Shamet & Ivica Zubac (2020 PHI 1st, 2021 MIA 1st)
- Avery Bradley → JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple
Taking all of that into account, as well as the fact that they moved off of paying Blake $100-plus million over the next three seasons, the Clippers essentially turned one player into a complete rebuild. They deftly compiled young players capable of contributing now, acquired solid veterans who’s complementary playstyles make their young core even better and also created flexibility to make themselves an option to add a max-level player through free agency or trade.
Internally, they also knew the good that they already had, as evidence by the signings of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell to team-friendly deals. Lou may be the biggest bargain in the league, and his stiffest competition for that title may be Harrell, as both are making under $10 million per year. The two had one of the greatest bench tandem seasons of all time, and they make a total of $14 million this past season.
All of this – the signings, the trades, all of it – was done over the course of two seasons, TWO SEASONS. What they do this offseason will obviously be critical to how truly great this rebuild will be, but what their front office accomplished in the time that they did should be considered nothing but a success, and should be viewed as a road map for middling teams everywhere.
The success of the front office over the last two seasons is also directly tied to the coaching department. Two seasons ago Doc Rivers was relieved of his dual role as president of basketball ops and head coach, a role that time and time again has proven to be too strenuous for one person to handle and leads to the degradation of both departments. Rivers has returned to finding a groove as head coach, and oversaw a potent offense despite all of the variations of the team that he was given to work with.
One area that the Clippers really excelled was in regards to their FT shooting. On the year the Clippers were the best team in the league in FT rate, a metric indicative of their desire to use contact as a means of controlling the flow of a game. It is also indicative of them acknowledging the strength of their personnel as a team with elite FT shooting across its roster, particularly in Danilio Gallinari and Williams, who both fall in the top-10 of FT fantasy value. The Clippers were one of the league’s best crunch time teams (6-2 in one-possession games, 5-1 in OT) and it was due in no small part to their success at the charity stripe.
In terms of how he managed his roster, Rivers appeared to soften his sometimes ridgid approach to coaching over the year. He relied heavily on rookies this season, something he has historically been known for straying away from in the past. It was clear that this was the best interest in the team, as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet became integral parts of the offense and showed a lot of improvement while doing so.
Rivers also found a perfect balance between his starting unit and his impressive collection of bench players. Much has been written about the bench duo of Williams and Harrell, and it’s worth emphasizing again that the two averaged over 36 points per game between the two of them, due in part to Rivers giving them the latitude to run pick and rolls down opposing teams’ throats possession after possession.
Now more focused and less stretched out across different responsibilities, Rivers has been able to work wonders with his rotations and has maximized the roster’s talents. He is now up for well-deserved Coach of the Year consideration and has regained much of his luster as an elite head coach.
ADP: 119/130 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 46/33 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 35/27 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 68
2018-19 averages: 68 G | 30.3 MP | 19.8 PTS | 2.4 3PM | 6.1 REB | 2.6 AST | 0.7 STL | 0.3 BLK | 2.4 TOV | .463 FG% | .904 FT%
2018-19 was a career year for Gallinari who, by and large, was the Clippers’ best and most consistent fantasy player on the season.
The oft-injured forward was able to suit up for 68 games, missing only 14 with a variety of small injuries to his lower back, left ankle and left knee. Thankfully none of them kept him out for long stretches, which allowed him to play his most games in a season since 2012-13.
Gallo provided versatility at both forward spots which allowed him to mesh with several of the Clippers’ ever-changing lineups. The 30-year-old forward sported career-highs in points, 3-pointers, FG percentage and rebounds, and continued to be one of the best FT shooters in all of fantasy hoops. All of that production landed him near the top-45 in total value and the top-35 in per-game value.
What comes next for Gallo is a little murky. He is set to be on an expiring $22.6 million contract next season, which could create a wide range of situations in which he could find himself at the start of next season.
If things break the way the Clippers want to this summer, they will wind up with at least one super-max free agent which will make Gallinari a 2nd or 3rd option if he stays, or make him a trade chip in a deal to acquire another top-level player. The latter situation could allow him to maintain a similar level of value that he saw this season depending on the team he lands with. However, If he is to stay in a situation like the former, we may see a low-end version of Gallinari that would put him closer to where he was drafted this season. Then, of course, there is the less-than-ideal scenario for the Clippers where they strike out on everyone and Gallinari comes back next season as a number one option, making him a safe bet for middle-round round value.
Finally, all of this is dependent on how healthy Gallinari is able to stay next year, which as history dictates, is far from a safe bet. In totality, the range in which he could come off boards next year extends anywhere from 4th to 8th round, making him one of the bigger question marks heading into the offseason.
ADP: 138/139 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 47/43 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 73/72 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 82
2018-19 averages: 82 G | 26.6 MP | 16.6 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 6.5 REB | 2.0 AST | 0.9 STL | 1.3 BLK | 1.6 TOV | .615 FG% | .643 FT%
Montrezl Harrell was a revelation this season, and was one of the biggest steals in fantasy drafts. The 25-year-old suited up for all 82 games, and produced across the board to give him top-50 total value on the year, placing him well beyond his ADP.
The most obvious jump he made was on the offensive end, where he raised his scoring average by 5.6 points per game and offered insane efficiency while doing so, finishing the year a top-5 value in FG percentage. He solidified his value with very good defensive stats and a trickle of assists from the center spot.
There are still some obvious weaknesses in his game. Harrell was only a 64% shooter from the line, and at five attempts a game, that percentage can take a particularly heavy toll on your team’s total percentage. That in conjunction with the lack of a 3-point shot creates a ceiling for his fantasy potential.
Harrell actually sticks out as one of the few players on this roster that will be a safe bet to produce value again next season regardless of what moves LA makes this summer. As one of the friendliest contracts in the league, Trez will likely stick around, and after the year he had, there is little reason to doubt that he won’t see similar minutes in mid-20s. At that rate Harrell should still collect boards, defensive stats and shoot at ridiculously high clip.
The one thing to watch for is how much of a role Lou Williams will have, as he was a critical component to Harrell’s scoring jump. The two sported one of the top pick-and-roll games in the entire league, and if Williams sees less opportunities next year, so too will Harrell as a roll man. Still though, he has more than showcased how valuable he can be and that should make him player worth keeping an eye on heading into next year’s drafts.
ADP: 44/59 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 64/82 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 77/101 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 75
2018-19 averages: 75 G | 26.6 MP | 20.0 PTS | 1.4 3PM | 3.0 REB | 5.4 AST | 0.8 STL | 0.1 BLK | 2.4 TOV | .425 FG% | .876 FT%
The presumed 6th Man of the Year tended to be over-drafted this season after blowing up for the career year he had in 2017-18, where he finished as a top-45 guy on the season on a per-game basis. This year he fell around the top-75 to top-100 area due in part to a difficult early-season slump as well as a hamstring injury that kept him out of the lineup for nearly two weeks.
By season’s end he fell a hair below last season’s averages in nearly every statistical category, but ultimately was a solid contributor in all of the areas that owners drafted him for.
Heading into next season he stands to be a player that could see his fantasy value take a noticeable dip. Sweet Lou’s fantasy game is fundamentally tied to his usage and shot volume. Any dip in ball-handling or shot opportunities will lead to a precipitous dip in fantasy value.
Regardless of what the Clippers do this offseason, Williams will likely still be the primary option off the bench. However, if ball-dominant starters are brought in and the Clippers’ focus falls more on them than the more balanced approach their teams have taken over the last couple of seasons, it will be almost impossible for Williams to score 20 points per game. If his scoring, 3-point shooting and FT shooting all take a hit then it will be tough to picture Lou Will producing more than late-round value.
ADP: NA/141 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 83/103 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 134/141 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 82
2018-19 averages: 82 G | 26.5 MP | 10.8 PTS | 0.6 3PM | 2.8 REB | 3.3 AST | 1.2 STL | 0.5 BLK | 1.7 TOV | .476 FG% | .800 FT%
Like many rookie point guards, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a rough time finding consistency through the first half of his season. Even though he took over the starting PG role and earned his coaches’ trust early on, SGA struggled to string together consistent stat lines, landing him between top-160 and top-200 value for the majority of his first two months in the league. He flipped a switch in the back half of the season as he grew more confident against NBA talent, seeing increases in his scoring numbers and steals, which allowed him to climb up to top-90/100 value in 9/8-cat value over the last two months. He finished at top-130/140 value on the season.
Despite inconsistency statistically, there was little doubt that SGA had a ton of talent to harness, and looked incredibly poised at his young age. In particular, he stood out as a competent defender almost immediately. SGA ranks in the top ten for guards in combined STL and BLK per 36 minutes, a testament to his lanky frame and quick instincts.
Gilgeous-Alexander appears to be as safe as any player on LA’s roster heading into the uncertainty of the offseason. He is far and away their most valuable asset, and the Clippers have indicated several times that they view him as a foundational piece of the future. Their infatuation with him may be enough to stave off desires to go after another top-level PG on the market, but in the event that landing, say, Kyrie Irving is actually feasible, that may force them to consider benching the young guard. Aside from that possibility there is little reason to think that SGA won’t be the starting PG when training camp rolls around, which solidly lands him as a mid-to-late round target in fantasy drafts.
ADP: 140/144 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 101/125 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 142/101 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 78
2018-19 averages: 78 G | 27.4 MP | 7.6 PTS | 1.4 3PM | 5.0 REB | 3.8 AST | 0.9 STL | 0.6 BLK | 1.1 TOV | .407 FG% | .780 FT%
Beverley started the season off on the wrong foot. Through the season’s first two months he couldn’t hit anything, shooting a pedestrian 35% from the floor and cementing himself outside of top-210 value. However, as injuries piled up and Bev found more consistency, he ended up returning to the fantasy form he had become renowned for in Hoop Ball circles, finishing with top-70/75 value in 9/8-cat over the last two months of the season.
The grizzled veteran PG was a cultural leader in LA and could be someone the Clips could look to bringing back into the fold as a backup. Wherever he winds up, Beverley will need about 25-27 minutes in order to produce standard-league value, a number that he could be unlikely to hit if he were to go to a different situation. There are some PG-needy teams that he’s been connected to already, though, so keep an eye on his free agency.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 188/171 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 245/217 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 79
2018-19 averages: 79 G | 22.8 MP | 9.1 PTS | 2.1 3PM | 1.7 REB | 1.5 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.6 TOV | .422 FG% | .806 FT%
Landry Shamet surprised many with his impeccable 3-point shooting stroke to start his career, so much so that he quickly garnered the title of ‘JJ Redick lite.’ After being traded to the Clippers, Shamet quickly ascended to the starting lineup where he produced an impressive 2.7 3-pointers while averaging nearly 28 minutes per contest.
For fantasy purposes Shamet doesn’t bring much else to the table outside his 3-point touch. Through those 25 games as a Clipper, he fell around top-150 in total value, a number largely attributed to his lack of rebounding, assists and defensive numbers. He looks to be an important part of LA’s young core moving forward, but it is unclear if he will be somebody worth drafting in fantasy leagues next season.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 199/195 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 187/187 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 59
2018-19 averages: 59 G | 17.6 MP | 8.9 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 6.1 REB | 5.4 AST | 0.2 STL | 0.9 BLK | 1.2 TOV | .559 FG% | .802 FT%
Zubac was gift-wrapped to the Clippers at the trade deadline, and provided an immediate upgrade, both long term and short, over Marcin Gortat as the starting center. As a Clipper, Zubac averaged 9.4 points (.538 FG shooting), 7.7 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 20 minutes per game, putting him around top-170/180 value during that time frame.
There are certainly some positives to his game, notably his rebounding numbers and well-rounded percentages, but his conditioning (and Harrell) limits him from exceeding the 20-minute mark. It’s likely that the Clippers will bring him back as they see him as a building block worth investing resources in, but unless he is able to see more run than he is currently getting, he won’t be making much noise in fantasy leagues.
ADP: NA/141 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 161/164 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 165/161 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 65
2018-19 averages: 65 G | 21.1 MP | 9.4 PTS | 1.1 3PM | 6.3 REB | 0.8 AST | 0.7 STL | 0.5 BLK | 1.3 TOV | .483 FG% | .792 FT%
JaMychal Green had more real life value than he did fantasy value following his trade to the Clippers. In particular, Green’s 3-point shot turned into a valuable asset for the second unit. He shot over 40% from 3-point range in about 20 minutes per game, and was a popular guy for Williams or Harrell to kick to off of pick-and-roll plays.
In terms of fantasy, however, he was more of an afterthought after being traded. He held just top-180/190 value since February, and was really only a low-end plus-contributor in rebounds and percentages. He now heads into unrestricted free agency with a marketable skill as a stretch four. If he manages to find the right situation and stay healthy (he did miss a month to start the season with an ankle injury) he could play more and actually hold some value. That remains to be seen, and until then he is not on the radar as a draft target.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 165/161 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 211/205 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 75
2018-19 averages: 75 G | 27.2 MP | 7.8 PTS | 1.2 3PM | 2.9 REB | 1.4 AST | 1.0 STL | 0.4 BLK | 0.9 TOV | .422 FG% | .748 FT%
Garrett Temple started the year as a starter for the Memphis Grizzlies, where he held low-end appeal in 9-cat leagues for his 3-point shooting and low turnover numbers. That appeal, however, all but evaporated after he was traded to the Clippers, as he was unable to get the amount of shots up that he was able to when he was in Memphis.
Now heading into free agency, Temple will likely find a bench role with a contender that could utilize his shooting and veteran leadership. His days as a fantasy contributor appear to be behind him.
ADP: NA/144 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 272/268 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 252/248 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 51
2018-19 averages: 51 G | 23.1 MP | 6.0 PTS | 1.2 3PM | 4.2 REB | 1.6 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.4 BLK | 0.9 TOV | .418 FG% | .720 FT%
Wilson Chandler was inserted into the 76ers’ starting lineup as a result of the Jimmy Butler trade, leaving hope that he could rekindle his fantasy game and provide the mixed bag of low-end value that he has shown capable of when given enough run. Unfortunately that never materialized for Chandler, who failed to crack top-250 value in 36 games due to spells of inconsistency as well as a right quad strain that kept him out of the lineup through his final days as a Sixer.
Following his trade to LA, Chandler fell completely off the radar in fantasy circles, falling around top-350 value in only 15 games of action. It is unclear where the 32-year-old free agent will wind up next, but wherever it may be, it’s safe to assume that he won’t be rostered on many fantasy teams next year.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 405/405 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 446/440 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 33
2018-19 averages: 33 G | 9.7 MP | 3.4 PTS | 0.5 3PM | 1.2 REB | 0.6 AST | 0.3 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.4 TOV | .400 FG% | .667 FT%
The first year guard out of Boston College failed to see his named called for the majority of his rookie season, spending most of it in stints in the G-League, nursing foot strains or just generally buried under the Clippers’ deep rotation of guards. The 13th pick was heralded as a pure shooter with decent scoring upside, but failed to showcase much of it.
To make matters worse, fellow rookie guard Landry Shamet offered the high-upside outside shooting that Robinson was supposed to bring to the table, making his role moving forward even less clear. There is obviously a lot of room to grow for him, but as of now, it is tough to see much fantasy potential for Robinson heading into next season.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 390/407 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 472/480 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 62
2018-19 averages: 62 G | 10.1 MP | 3.5 PTS | 0.1 3PM | 1.6 REB | 0.7 AST | 0.3 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.6 TOV | .424 FG% | .526 FT%
Wallace is a fan favorite for his fast paced style of play, but he has never been able to secure consistent minutes in LA’s loaded backcourt. Even if he were to secure more than his 10 minutes per game, he doesn’t flash a very fantasy-friendly game and it would take a ton of burn for him to emerge as an option in fantasy leagues.
ADP: NA/134 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 248/251 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 289/284 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 66
2018-19 averages: 66 G | 23.5 MP | 7.6 PTS | 1.2 3PM | 3.6 REB | 1.7 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.2 BLK | 1.0 TOV | .402 FG% | .722 FT%
McGruder didn’t play a single game for the Clippers, and was only acquired after essentially being sacrificed by the Heat late in the season to avoid paying the luxury tax. The relatively unknown guard had a hot start to the season that garnered some attention in fantasy circles for a little while.
Unfortunately he fell prey to Miami’s maddening rotations and just a general lack of consistency. All in all McGruder finished the year at top-290 value, which won’t garner him any fantasy draft buzz. He still remains an interesting player who the Clippers can continue to develop if they so choose.
The success of the 2018-19 season won’t soon be forgotten by their fans, and they hope that it will be of interest to numerous high level free agents on the market. The Clippers have been maneuvering over the last two years for this moment, and have successfully created two scenarios that they will be able to pivot to.
The first is to make a big splash in acquiring top-5 players in Kawhi Leonard or Kevin Durant or even complementary stars in Jimmy Butler or Khris Middleton. The Clippers are arguably bringing back all of their best players next season and they are taking up a relatively small portion of their cap. They can easily pitch that they have the strongest foundation for presumptive free agents to contend with, and that they are one or two pieces away from being in Championship contention. That, paired with a highly-respected coach in Rivers and the allure of living in LA, gives the Clippers a formidable pitch to anyone they are able to land a meeting with.
Then there is the second option — the less-desired one, but by no means a terrible one. If they fail to bring in any of the high-profile guys they are targeting, the Clippers will be able to turn to a full-blown rebuild that would already be off to a hot start. They already have a bevy of youth and valuable draft picks, and could gain even more by trading Gallinari’s expiring deal or Williams’ incredibly cap-friendly deal to a contender. To put it simply: This team has options.
It will be as fascinating an offseason as there can be for any team in the NBA. But for a franchise that has been synonymous with failure and dysfunction like the Clippers have been, what transpired this season should hold nothing but optimism for them moving forward.