After narrowly missing the 2018 NBA Playoffs, should the Los Angeles Clippers focus on returning to the postseason or developing their young core in 2018-19?
The Los Angeles Clippers are a team with a split personality.
Finally purging themselves of the final remnants of the Lob City era, the unceremonious departure of DeAndre Jordan leaves the Clippers as a team of contradictions; a squad attempting to return to the playoffs after an underwhelming 2017-18 season while simultaneously trying to establish a new, younger identity on the fly.
That is a tightrope walk, to say the least.
But with the Clippers officially set to start the 2018-19 season, one question has to be asked: Should they attempt to win now, or develop their young core?
With a motley crew of veteran scorers highlighted by Danilo Gallinari, Tobias Harris, Patrick Beverley, and recently re-signed, reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, the Clips still have what it takes to win games in the West, but are we talking 40 wins, or 50?
Furthermore, with nine of the team’s 15 players being 30 or older, it’s worth wondering just how far this collection of players can take things this season. Would fans really be happy with the 8-seed and a first round bump by the Golden State Warriors?
I wouldn’t be.
While it may not be a fun pill to swallow, it may simply make more sense for the Clippers to prioritize developing their young core of players as opposed to an all-out brawl for a playoff spot.
Much like the pre-Process Philadelphia 76ers, this Clippers squad has a clearly defined ceiling, and likely won’t be able to surpass it unless one of their young stable of players elevates himself into a legitimate All-Star caliber talent.
That search for a new identity is a big reason why the team opted to double dip on their backcourt in the 2018 NBA Draft, selecting Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Boston College shooter Jerome Robinson (almost) back-to-back. Will this dynamic duo turn into the Clippers’ answer to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, or at least develop into a complementary pair that can mask each other’s weaknesses? Who knows, but it’s pretty safe to say they weren’t selected in the lottery just to sit on the bench.
So, with the 2018-19 NBA season finally here, and this season’s L.A. Clippers squad ready to test its mettle against the best of the West, how Doc Rivers structures his lineups throughout the game will be incredibly telling as to just what the team is trying to accomplish this season: win now, or win for years to come.