The Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers are in an arms race this summer, one that could rival The Cold War. It all began in the early hours of Saturday morning, when Kawhi Leonard shocked everyone announcing he would sign with the Los Angeles Clippers. But just minutes later ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski dropped another massive “Woj bomb” that sent the NBA World into a frenzy.
Sources: Oklahoma City is getting a massive package of future picks, including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Galllinari, to deliver Kawhi Leonard who he wanted to partner with: Paul George. https://t.co/4bGpMNat8K
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 6, 2019
The shockwaves this sent throughout the NBA is partially due to the deadly duo George and Leonard will be, but what caught us all of guard was how the trade came out of nowhere. There had been no rumblings of Paul George wanting out of OKC, and even less likely of happening considering he just finished year one of his max contract extension he signed last offseason. Regardless of how it happened, the Clippers went from potential Free Agency busts to bypassing the entire league in Las Vegas’ odds to win the Finals in 2020. At the same time, the Clippers landing Leonard threw a wrench into the Lakers offseason plans and left them scrambling to fill out a contending roster with just $32 million, and limited talent left on the free agent market.
The Lakers pivoted quickly, signing SG/SF Danny Green to a 2-year $30million deal immediately after Leonard announced his decision to join the Clippers. The Lakers also retained C JaVale McGee and SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope soon after. By the time the rest of the world who missed the late night fireworks had awoken, the Lakers were on to their next moves. They added former Warriors guard Quinn Cook, and Center DeMarcus Cousins, while bringing back Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso to fill out the guard positions. For very limited time, talent and resources available for the Lakers, they pivoted off of Leonard quickly and successfully.
But which Los Angeles Team has the best team on paper thus far? Let’s break it down.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are coming off an impressive season, where they went 48-34, snagging the 8th seed and pushed the fully healthy Warriors to 6 games on the backs of a bunch of role players. For Head coach Doc Rivers, I would argue it was his best piece of coaching in his career. Fast forward to next season, the heart of that team remains intact, and you’re adding the two best two-way players in the NBA, Kawhi Leonard(best player in the world?) and Paul George. I’m sorry but it is hard to deny the Clippers as the favorites to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2020. They should feature the best defense in the league when you consider their 5 potential starters are all good to great defenders.
Pat Beverly at point harassing guards for 94 feet, and 40 minutes a night is extremely annoying and difficult to deal with, just ask Westbrook or any other guard in the league. He was even going at KD in the playoffs a season ago. Then on the wing Paul George and Kawhi Leonard can and will lockdown, or at least contain just about anyone you put in front of them. Over the course of the game Beverly, George and Leonard can take turns defending the opponents best offensive threat. That will keep all three of them fresh, and available late in games to knock down clutch shots and carry the offense.
When you look at the Clippers depth, they check the box too. With 3x 6th Man of the Year Lou Williams and Montrez Harrell coming off the bench, giving that one two punch can’t be underestimated. Lou Will can early give you 18 plus a night off the bench, and that’s against your bench or your starters.
Lou Willams said it best in a tweet earlier: “Your favorite team hates seeing me go to the scorers table. Trust me.”
The only weak spot on this current Clippers roster is the center position. As a former Laker, I love Ivica Zubac game and salty that Magic Johnson gave him away for lousy Mike Muscala. But the kid isn’t ready to handle the elite bigs out West. Having to face Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gobert, etc, the Clippers will struggle defending the paint. Even Montrez Harrell, who is a beast, is undersized standing at just 6’8″.
Los Angeles Lakers
Considering the Lakers have turned their roster upside down since the season ended, and there are plenty of new faces wearing the purple and gold, I actually really like the Lakers roster on paper. It starts and ends with how well LeBron and Anthony Davis mesh together, but I think their games translate. Two generational talents sharing the ball will work one way of another. LeBron will likely give you his usually 26-7-7 stat line, and AD should give 25+ppg, 12rpg, 3apg, a couple of blocks and steals as well. The Lakers Big 2 will carry the heavy load.
Missing out on Kawhi hurts, but the Lakers have their third go to scorer in Kyle Kuzma. People forget but Kuzma averaged 18 ppg last season, that’s all you need from a 3rd option.
When you look at each position’s depth chart, the Lakers have starting NBA talent any each.
PG: Rondo, Cook, Caruso
SG: Danny Green, KCP,
SF: Lebron James, Jared Dudley
PF: Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma
C: JaVle McGee, DeMarcus Cousins
The weak spot for the Lakers is clearly the point guard position. Rondo’s defense and shot making is questionable, Quinn Cook is a lights out shooter but again a question mark on defense, and Alex Caruso has been good in spurts but hasn’t proved to be a consistent role player over the course of an NBA season.
The front court is where the Lakers will shine. You won’t find a better front court than LeBron, AD, Kuzma, JaVale, and whatever is left of Cousins. Oh and the Lakers have been reported to be the favorite for Andre Iguodala once he is bought out by Memphis.
If I were to give one of the Los Angeles teams an edge, right now it would be the Clippers considering they were better last season, have the better coach and have less question marks on their roster. However I do think the Lakers have the higher upside if all things go right. If LeBron and AD avoid injuries, DeMarcus Cousins regains 80% of his form prior to his Achilles injury, and Kuzma continues to develop, the Lakers are right there with any team. That is a lot of “if’s” but I do believe the Lakers will be amongst the final 4 teams out West with a good chance to win it all.
Photo Credits: Clutch Points (Featured Photo); Bleacher Report; ESPN