The Los Angeles Clippers made serious moves in the 2019 off-season to sign Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to attempt to win a first NBA Championship. Leonard had guided the Toronto Raptors to their first title in the previous campaign, winning the NBA Finals MVP for the second time in his career. The 29-year-old was joined by George following his trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, although the Clippers were forced to give up the talented Shai Gilgeous-Alexander along with a significant haul of draft picks to acquire the All-Star.
Los Angeles’ results on the court did not back up the outlay. They competed with the Los Angeles Lakers for the top seed in the Western Conference, and even split their four meetings over the course of the term. However, the Lakers’ consistency allowed them to beat out their rivals for the number one spot, handing LeBron James and company the favorable route to the Western Conference Finals. The Clippers first had to battle past Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. It took six games and a Doncic injury for the team to advance.
The Denver Nuggets posed a challenge in the semi-finals, but Doc Rivers’ side were expected to advance to face off against LeBron in the Finals. It appeared to be that way when the Clippers raced into a 3-1 lead. However, Kawhi, George and company failed to get over the line – suffering the embarrassment of losing three games on the spin to crash out of the post-season.
Rivers paid the price and he was fired, but his reputation has already seen him land with the Philadelphia 76ers – another underachieving outfit. Los Angeles now have to watch their city rivals on the charge for their first NBA title in 10 years, being backed as the overwhelming favorites in the odds on NBA betting on bet365 to defeat the Miami Heat. Across the city, the Clippers will be wondering where their potential bid all went wrong especially as they failed to at least contest their rivals in the playoffs.
Leonard was certainly not the biggest issue that the Clippers had in the series, although two of his performances in two of their defeats were enough to raise the eyebrows. He remains one of the best players in the NBA, but he cannot do it alone. In San Antonio, he had the experience and guile of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker in support. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam were on hand in Toronto to ease the burden, especially the latter.
However, George failed to rise to the occasion to take the pressure off his team-mate in game seven – mustering only 10 points. He made 2 of his 11 attempts from three-point range and four of his 16 from the field. It’s not good enough for a player of his caliber – perhaps highlighting why he has not been part of a championship-winning team.
There are already reports suggesting that the team could move on from the 30-year-old in the off-season. At this stage of his career he’s not likely to improve and his value will only decline. It was a curious move to give up a player on the rise in Gilgeous-Alexander, who could be on course for a successful career – perhaps even better than George.
Los Angeles’ new coach may play a role in the decision, but with only one year left on his deal, the Clippers will have to act sooner rather than later. The team faces a massive choice about the future of their franchise over the coming weeks. With Leonard they remain a contender, but generating enough talent around him has to be their priority to make amends for an underwhelming season.