NBA Predictions: Clippers

LeBron James agreed terms with cross-town rival Lakers, so the Clippers are once again little brother in Los Angeles. Their three best players from a year ago are gone, but Avery Bradley is re-signing for two years-$25 million, while Montrezl Harrell has agreed for two years-$12 million. To go along with Marcin Gortat, the Clippers have sixteen contracts and two non-guaranteed contracts to work with.

This many players means the Clippers will have to make at least one cut or trade before the season starts. As constructed, this team is right under the Luxury Tax with total salaries equal to $122,371,725 and is expected to win 42 games again. A healthy Gallinari with something to prove could provide five wins. Harris can be worth five wins this season as well, in his first full season in Los Angeles. Lou Williams got off to a great start with the Clippers with a career high 6.7 Win Shares last season and will do well to replicate that. Gortat has had ups and downs in his career and has improved in his first two years with a new team, so should provide at least six wins. Unfortunately, Bradley was a negative producer last season and the Clippers will depend on his defense on the perimeter, hoping he can be close to NBA average on offense to add a win for this club. Marjanovic has shown flashes of productivity, though in limited minutes. The Clippers will lean on him more down low this season, and he will provide when called upon for at least two wins.

There does not appear to be a player available in free agency that could change the Clippers fortunes, but a trade could be an option for a last-minute of in-season upgrade. This roster is expected to miss the playoffs once again with the same record.

2017-18 Record: 42-40

2018-19 Contracts: 16

2018-19 Total Salaries: $122,371,725

2018-19 Prediction: 42-40

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NBA Records at the Break

Best of the Best

1. Rockets 44-13

2. Warriors 44-14

Golden State lost a tough game in Portland to allow Houston to claim the top spot going into the All-Star break, setting up a tight race down the stretch at the top. Opening night could come back to haunt the Warriors if this comes down to a Game 7–the Rockets beat the Warriors by one in Oakland and will own the tie-break after spliting two other games in Houston.

Top of the East

3. Raptors 41-16

4. Celtics 40-19

5. Cavaliers 34-22

LeBron James just confirmed his status as the best player in the world after winning All-Star Game MVP. The King’s team are still favorites to make the Finals from the East, even as the third seed, and will be rejuvenated by their deadline deals and the break. Toronto and Boston are not just battling for home-court but mostly to postpone a series with Cleveland and an easier path through the playoffs.

Home Cooking

6. Spurs 35-24

7. Timberwolves 36-25

The upstart T’Wolves have mixed young talent with veteran stability to challenge San Antonio for third position in the West. The Spurs have struggled to find consistency without Kawhi Leonard, going 10-12 in 2018 and 1-5 heading into the break.

Eastern Contenders

8. Wizards 33-24

9. Pacers 33-25

10. Bucks 32-25

John Wall is out for Washington as they try to hold off Indiana and Milwaukee for home-court in the first round. Meanwhile, the Bucks lost at home to the Nuggets in the last game before All-Star weekend, dropping them from four to six in the East, which would set them up with Cleveland in Round 1. This has yet to be settled with five games remaining between the three teams; Milwaukee host the Wizards before playing Indiana twice over the next fortnight, and the Pacers go to Washington twice after having lost to the Wizards at home.

NorthWest Parity

11. Thunder 33-26

12. Trail Blazers 32-26

13. Nuggets 32-26

It’s likely there will be four playoffs teams from this division and the Jazz are not completely out of the picture yet, currently on an eleven game winning streak. The Wolves seem to have separated from the pack, but every team here is capable of going on a long run and doing damage in the playoffs.

Upset Alert

14. 76ers 30-25

Philadelphia are a dangerous seventh seed and can push Toronto or Boston in a series, where the extra rest will play to their advantage. The 76ers are 27-17 when Embiid plays and 3-8 without him–more specifically, Philly split two games apiece against the Celtics and Raptors with Embiid, and 0-3 against those two opponents without him.

LIFO (Last In First Out)

15. Pelicans 31-26

16. Clippers 30-26

17. Jazz 30-28

18. Heat 30-28

New Orleans and Los Angeles both made moves at the trade deadline to make a playoff run–the Clips have won five out of the last six, while the Pels have so far struggled to find their form with DeMarcus Cousins out. Utah are the hottest team in the NBA and of their 24 games remaining, fourteen are at home and only eleven against playoff teams. The prize for this is probably getting swept by the Rockets or Warriors in the first round. Miami went 18-8 starting December 9, only to finish 1-7 in the last eight games and lose all momentum going into the last 24 games. The Pistons are unlikely to challenge, allowing the Heat to hold on to the eighth spot.

Purgatory

19. Pistons 28-29

20. Hornets 24-33

Detroit are 1-4 since the trade deadline, and have struggled to 9-17 on the road. With fifteen games away from home remaining, it will be nearly impossible to make the playoffs at this point and no chance at a top draft pick. Charlotte are 9-18 on the road and have fourteen road games left on their schedule, leading to a slow and painful end to their season.

Big Market Crash

21. Lakers 23-34

22. Knicks 23-36

23. Bulls 20-37

The three biggest NBA markets are watching their teams unravel as the season comes to a close, and not likely a top-5 pick for any of these teams to show for missing the playoffs.

Chase for #1 Pick

24. Nets 19-40

25. Grizzlies 18-38

26. Kings 18-39

27. Magic 18-39

28. Mavericks 18-40

29. Suns 18-41

30. Hawks 18-41

Six teams with eighteen wins and the Nets right off the pace at 19-40, only one game away from the worst record–we have a deep race for NBA futility.