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Clippers Losing To Nuggets Would Radically Change The NBA

Clippers Losing To Nuggets Would Radically Change The NBA

The Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets will square off for Game 7 of their second-round series on Tuesday.

If the Clippers win, they will play the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Everything will move forward much in the same way everyone expected it to before the year even began.

Should the Clippers lose, however – the fallout could be epic.

Everything will suddenly be in question – including Doc Rivers’ future with the organization, as well as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George’s status going forward.

This week, ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst spoke on the prospect during an episode of the Hoop Collective.

“If the Clippers lose that series, there is going to be a lot of fallout,” he said.

“It would be a historic disappointment,” he added, while bringing up that “Kawhi and Paul George [will] have one year left on their contracts.”

When the Clippers traded for George this past offseason, they made a hefty bet. They predicted bringing in Leonard and him was worth mortgaging the future because those two alone would turn them into title contenders.

The calculation may still prove to be correct, but if it isn’t, then it is worth recalling precisely how much they gave up.

In total, for the right to acquire George, the Clippers sent away Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, their first-round draft picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026, along with two first-round choices in 2021 and 2023 (via the Miami Heat). Plus, the Oklahoma City Thunder obtained the right to swap first-round picks in 2023 and 2025.

When you give up that many assets, you are wagering that you are one piece away from a title. And the reason you better be only one piece away is because if you’re not, you won’t have the assets necessary to improve.

That is where the Clippers currently find themselves.

This team, as presently constructed, is it. It will either be good enough or it won’t be. But it won’t get any better.

When you cannot improve a team’s roster, you start looking at other things. Like coaching.

Just a week ago, the Clippers were up 3-1 over Denver and seemed to be a lock to go to the Western Conference Finals. Then in Games 5 and 6, they somehow managed to blow a pair of 16-point leads in bewildering fashion. They looked totally lost.

This is becoming a trend for Rivers.

Back in 2017, the Clippers became the first team in NBA history to blow a series lead in five straight postseasons. Prior to that, when he was with the Boston Celtics, Rivers also choked away a 3-2 lead in the NBA Finals to the Lakers.

This is something that is now inseparable from his legacy.

Should Rivers lose this series, his future will very much be in doubt.

There were a lot of questions regarding whether Steve Ballmer would bring in his own guy prior to 2019, but a surprisingly strong showing by Rivers in the midst of a rebuild silenced all that chatter.

A Game 7 collapse would be a step in the wrong direction, and immediately reignite all the murmurs from two years ago when Rivers failed to deliver with a Big 3 comprised of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

Beyond the head coaching situation, as noted by Windhorst, Leonard and George are only locked under contract for one more year after this season. Both men have player options for 2021 and are unrestricted free agents in 2022.

If the Clippers are unable to put together a winning combination around their two All-Stars, and if they are hampered by financial restrictions due to all the assets they gave up to acquire them, then it would not be all that shocking to see one or both depart.

Leonard has shown that he has no particular allegiance to any organization. If not for a late push by the Clippers to add George, he likely would have signed with the Lakers last summer.

George, meanwhile, has seemingly embraced his mercenary-for-hire reputation. If Leonard decided to move on and George was left by himself in LA, would it really be out of character for him to go elsewhere?

All talk in recent weeks has been about Giannis Antetokounmpo leaving the Milwaukee Bucks and how that will shift the NBA landscape. But to date, Antetokounmpo hasn’t really expressed any serious desire to leave.

It is just as likely, if not moreso, that the Clippers getting eliminated from the postseason will have a larger ripple effect for the league than Milwaukee’s loss to the Miami Heat.

Rivers, Leonard and George could all suddenly find themselves under the magnifying glass if things don’t go according to plan against Denver.

Game 7s are always massive, but Tuesday’s will be especially impactful. It will either reaffirm the faith that Clippers brass had in Rivers, Leonard and George – or it will throw the organization’s entire future into question.

The Clippers and Nuggets will square off for all the marbles tomorrow at 6:00 pm on ESPN.

Related: Kyle Kuzma Takes Jab At Austin Rivers After Lakers Win

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Carlos Garcia

A longtime sports reporter, Carlos Garcia has written about some of the biggest and most notable athletic events of the last 5 years. He has been credentialed to cover MLS, NBA and MLB games all over the United States. His work has been published on Fox Sports, Bleacher Report, AOL and the Washington Post.

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