The Clippers made an enormous splash this summer with big moves made left and right, topping it all off with the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Now, with the massive rise in talent level comes the equally-enormous jump in expectations, with one man in charge of controlling it all: head coach Doc Rivers.
Rivers is no stranger to this type of talent level on his team. You can look back a few years to a similar group on this same team, with Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan all turning Los Angeles into Lob City.
But, for this new group of stars making their way to Hollywood, it may be best for the one-time NBA champion coach to dust off the time machine and head back more than a decade to channel his time with the 2007-2008 Celtics.
Rivers was at the helm when the Celtics became the creator of the Super-Team Era of the 2000s and 2010s, when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce in Boston. The trio then turned the fanfare into a Finals foray, finishing the job with a championship win.
Contrary to popular belief, championships aren’t just won with two or three star players, and that’s where Rivers made a name for himself in Boston. Sure, Pierce, Garnett and Allen were an incredible trio that pushed the franchise to the finish line in 2008. But, those following the team that year couldn’t deny the impacts of guys like Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen, Eddie House and many, many more.
That’s where this upcoming Clippers roster gets interesting. This is a team that, before the additions of Leonard and George, took the full-strength Warriors to six games. The same Warriors that went on to force six games with the Raptors, even without Kevin Durant for the wide majority of the series and Klay Thompson for the second half of the series-clinching Raptors win.
The first thing that came to mind the morning after the late-night “Woj Bomb” from Adrian Wojnarowski about George joining Leonard in Los Angeles was the comparison to the 2008 Celtics. Whether it’s Leonard signing with the team in his prime like Garnett did, George getting traded like Allen did, or guys like Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley that have been around already, similar to Pierce and Rondo.
You can make physical comparisons or look at the similar situations, but numbers are where most fans tend to place their focus.
So, we looked at the statistics from the year before the formation of the Big Three, and the year before this new Dynamic Duo’s creation, and if you don’t already think the Clippers are in good shape in the Western Conference, you should now.
Here’s where the comparisons get interesting:
Kevin Garnett and Kawhi Leonard
Sure, the positions aren’t the same, which means the on-court impact won’t be an exact equal. However, the circumstances and talent levels are both incredibly similar. Both were major signings in free agency that set in motion an additional move, and both put up stellar numbers in the season prior to their jump to their new homes.
Kevin Garnett in 2006-2007 season for the Timberwolves before joining the Celtics:
22.4 points per game, 12.8 rebounds per game, 4.1 assists per game, 47% field goal percentage.
Kawhi Leonard in 2018-2019 season with the Raptors:
26.6 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, 3.3 assists per game, 49.6% field goal percentage
Ray Allen and Paul George
Both Allen and George were sent to their respective super-teams via trade, and ironically both come from the same franchise (Allen’s Seattle SuperSonics later became George’s Oklahoma City Thunder).
Note the similarities in a few stat categories, as well:
Ray Allen in 2006-2007 season for the SuperSonics before joining the Celtics:
26.4 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, 4.1 assists per game, 43.8% field goal percentage
Paul George in 2018-2019 season with the Thunder:
28 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game, 4.1 assists per game, 43.8% field goal percentage
Paul Pierce and Lou Williams
Paul Pierce wasn’t a sixth man like Lou Williams was last year, but the statistical comparisons work well for the two.
Paul Pierce in 2006-2007 season before the addition of Garnett and Allen:
25 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game, 4.1 assists per game, 43.9% field goal percentage
Lou Williams in 2018-2019 season with the Clippers:
20 points per game, 3 rebounds per game, 5.4 assists per game, 42.5% field goal percentage
Rajon Rondo and Patrick Beverley
This comparison is a bit tougher than others, given the fact that Rajon Rondo was a rookie in the 2006-2007 season and Patrick Beverley has been around for seven seasons, but the numbers don’t lie when it comes to this comparison.
Again, note the similarity in one of the stat categories:
Rajon Rondo in 2006-2007 season before the addition of Garnett and Allen:
6.4 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game, 3.8 assists per game, 41.8% field goal percentage
Patrick Beverley in 2018-2019 season with the Clippers:
7.6 points per game, 5 rebounds per game, 3.8 assists per game, 40.7% field goal percentage
Kendrick Perkins and Ivika Zubac
This comparison works pretty well, considering Ivika Zubac has been around for three seasons, one of which has been with the Clippers already, and Kendrick Perkins got in four seasons before the formation of the Big Three.
If these stats say anything for Clippers fans, it’s that they have a great young star in their hands if he continues at the trajectory he’s on, considering the impact Perkins had on the Celtics during their two runs to the NBA Finals during his tenure with the team.
Kendrick Perkins in 2006-2007 season before the addition of Garnett and Allen:
4.5 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game, 1.3 assists per game, 49.1% field goal percentage
Ivika Zubac in 2018-2019 season (total numbers and numbers with the Clippers):
Total: 8.9 points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game, 1.1 assists per game, 55.9% field goal percentage
26 games with Clippers: 9.4 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game, 1.5 assists per game, 53.8% field goal percentage
This Clippers team has incredible potential, especially considering how far they took their ride in this past postseason with a much-smaller talent pool to work with. Add in a confident Kawhi Leonard coming off an NBA Finals MVP performance, along with an MVP-caliber season from Paul George, and you could be looking at the new staple in Los Angeles.