This summer the unthinkable happened. Kawhi Leonard signed with an NBA team that wasn’t the Los Angeles Lakers or the Toronto Raptors, but in fact was the Los Angeles Clippers. On top of that, the Clippers traded the Oklahoma City Thunder four unprotected first-round picks, one protected first-round pick and two pick swaps, along with Danilo Gallinari and Shai-Gilgeous-Alexander to acquire Paul George. With the Clippers now becoming a new powerhouse in the West, they have enough weapons to go against LeBron James and Anthony Davis for the battle of the Staples Center. However, just having all-stars doesn’t automatically bring you rings. Having your supporting role is what really makes or breaks your team, and that’s exactly what everyone needs to pay attention to.
Potential starting lineups for both teams
PG – LeBron James vs. Patrick Beverley
This matchup is a no brainer. LeBron is an all-star and one of the greatest players of this generation and to some the goat. He averaged 27.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists a game in 55 games with his first year with the Lakers. He is a 3x finals MVP, a 4x regular season MVP, 10x first team all-NBA along with many other accomplishments.
Beverley averaged 7.8 points a game and is the leader and the heart of the Clippers when it comes to defense and hustle points.
SG – Avery Bradley vs. Landry Shamet
Coming into the league as a great 3 and D guy, Bradley has averaged 12 points a game for his career and has been hit with the injury bug. His best seasons was with the Boston Celtics where he averaged around 15 a game and was key to there team. He had a couple of disappointing seasons with the Clippers, and is coming off a bounce back season with the Memphis Grizzlies. Lakers fans can only hope he can bring back what he used to be.
Landry Shamet is coming off his rookie season where he played for both the Philadelphia 76ers and the Clippers. He shot around 45% from the 3-point and when he’s hot, he can put up points in a hurry. If he continues to blossom he can be dangerous in the NBA.
SF – Kyle Kuzma vs. Paul George
Paul George is a 6x all-star who is all but waiting to finally add a ring to his NBA pedigree. After declining an opportunity to play with LeBron he choose to play with Russell Westbrook, where he seems to have found out the error in his ways. He demanded a trade and is now in LA. He averaged 28 PPG last season and with his chance to finally get a ring, and not have to have all the weight on his shoulders, he should feel more confident.
Coming into this third season, and being the only young player of the Lakers that didn’t get traded, he will surely have to take a step back. He averaged around 19 PPG last season, and at times seemed like one of offensive focal points when LeBron was out or sitting on the bench. With all this new firepower on the team, his scoring will surely take a back seat and his defense is going to be what needs to shine.
PF – Anthony Davis vs. Kawhi Leonard
Coming off a championship run with the Toronto Raptors, Kawhi now sends his talent to LA with George to potentially bring the Clippers organization it’s first legit championship run. With a solid starting five and a bench that can hold while he’s sitting he shouldn’t have any problem with his load management issues.
Anthony Davis forced his way out thanks to Rich Paul, and now is LeBron James running mate. Although he’s right now the best big man in the game, he played a career low 56 games last season. The only way he truly makes an impact on the Lakers is if he can stay healthy, and with LeBron starting to finally show signs of slowing down, he’s going to need to play around 75 games, at least, to help them make noise in the West.
C – DeMarcus Cousins vs. Ivica Zubac
Coming off his third year in the league playing for both the Lakers and the Clippers, Zubac finally showed that he has some moves around the rim, and can give you good minutes whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. With the Clippers roster being small in terms of their big men, he is the size they will need to utilize to help with rebounds and blocked shots, and to clean the mess of everyone else until Montrezl Harrell comes in.
Cousins has come off back-to-back injuries and has shown very small flashes of how he used to be and what he can be. Now being signed with the Lakers, he will fight for his minutes next to JaVale McGee, who the Lakers already know they can rely on. If Cousins can go back to his prime form, or even a shell of it, he will be that presence down low that the Lakers would love to have next to Davis.
Although we have no idea how the chemistry will work as the season hasn’t even begun yet, both LA teams being as close with talent as possible it will be interesting to see Lakers and Clippers home games and who will really have home-court advantage.
Sources- Basketball reference, ESPN