The Milwaukee Bucks start their four game western road trip with a game against the Los Angeles Clippers. The two teams played last week with the Clippers victorious in the BMO Harris Bradley Center 127-120. To find out how this season has been for the Clippers, Lucas Hann, Editor-in-Chief at Clips Nation, SB Nation’s Clippers affiliate was nice enough to answer our questions.
Despite injuries, and trading Blake Griffin midseason, the Clippers are still in a position to make the playoffs. What has been the key to the team’s success?
Well, I don’t think the Clippers will actually end up making the playoffs this season, but it’s a pretty good question--and one I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. I even tweeted a couple weeks ago: “I have no idea why these Clippers are as good as they are.” The answer is scoring--they’ve put up something like 115 points per game since Tobias Harris joined the lineup, and they have a really balanced attack where Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Austin Rivers, Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic, Montrezl Harrell, and DeAndre Jordan are all regularly hitting double figures in scoring. The problem is that they routinely allow opponents to score in the 110s and 120s as well.
How would you describe the state of the franchise?
I think the Clippers’ front office is pretty comfortable with their position at the moment. They’re slotted to have two lottery picks, and they have a lot of movable, valuable pieces on team-friendly contracts. Harris will make 15 million next year, Lou Williams will make 8, Patrick Beverley will make just 5, Montrezl Harrell is a restricted free agent, they have a host of young players, and they have bird rights to try and secure team-friendly deals for Avery Bradley and DeAndre Jordan this summer. They don’t have their main piece yet, but they’ve done a really nice job of quickly building up a collection of assets to make a move when the guy they want becomes available.
How long do you think Doc Rivers will stay with the team and do you believe his time is up?
Going in to this season, it certainly felt like it was going to be Doc’s last with the team. As we stand today, it would be really hard to justify moving on. Doc has honestly done a phenomenal job with this group and they’ve far outperformed expectations--I feel confident in saying it’s the most impressed I’ve been with his coaching since he came to L.A. I mean, look at the talent on the roster, and then consider that Beverley missed the whole season, Bradley has barely played since arriving, Gallinari has missed the whole season, Griffin missed over a month before he was traded, Austin Rivers missed about 20 games, and Milos Teodosic missed almost the entire first half of the season. This team should have about 15 fewer wins than they do. It’s hard to sit on the outside and point directly at Doc as causing that--but it’s also hard to discount that coaching would be a factor when a team overperforms this dramatically, especially when it’s been so many different combinations of players of the course of months.
What would you like to see from the Clippers this upcoming offseason?
Patience. Like I said above, I think they’ve put themselves in a good long-term position. The most important thing is to get two rookies that they feel good about, be smart and frugal in free agency, and have another season next year where they come together, the young guys grow, and they try to move veterans for assets. If an opportunity presents itself, they should jump to acquire a star, but I’d hate to see them go all-in on a middling guy just to end up in 10th place again next year but without the flexibility and prospects they have currently.
How do you feel the Clippers match up vs Giannis Antetokounmpo?
I mean, does anybody really match up with Giannis? The Clippers will inconsistently help, halfheartedly try to rotate to shooters, and give up 110 points. The real question is whether or not Giannis can shut down Harris (or Gallinari if he plays). If the Bucks hold the Clippers under 110, they’ll win. The Clippers are 2-6 when scoring under 110 since Harris joined the team. They’re 12-3 when scoring over 110. If Giannis can impact the game defensively and take Tobias out of the picture, it could become very difficult for the Clippers to reach that mark.