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Clippers 2019-20 Schedule: Top Games, Championship Odds and Record Predictions

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 12, 2019

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 17:  Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors looks on from the team bus during the Toronto Raptors Championship Victory Parade on June 17, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images)
Mark Blinch/Getty Images

After sneaking into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference last season, the Los Angeles Clippers made some franchise-altering moves to establish themselves as legitimate championship contenders. 

L.A. acquired Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and five first-round picks in lockstep with signing Kawhi Leonard, who was named NBA Finals MVP and led the Toronto Raptors to their first championship in franchise history last season.

With Leonard and George leading the way, the Clippers could be considered the team to beat in 2019-20, although several other teams made big moves to get themselves into contention as well.

As the Clippers look to make a run at their first championship, here is everything you need to know about their schedule for the upcoming season.

        

2018-19 Details

Season Opener: Oct. 22 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Championship Odds: 15-4 (Caesars)

Full Schedule: NBA.com

          

Top Matchups

Los Angeles Lakers (First Home Game: Oct. 22)

The city of Los Angeles hasn't been much of a factor in the NBA in recent years, but that is about to change, as the Clippers and Lakers are set to enter 2019-20 as two of the league's top championship contenders.

With the Clippers acquiring both Leonard and George, and the Lakers essentially putting an entirely new roster around LeBron James, including Anthony Davis, the energy in Staples Center when the Clips and Lakers meet for the first time next season will be palpable.

Fans could be getting an early preview of the Western Conference Finals, and there is little doubt that the game will have a playoff atmosphere.

The Clippers and Lakers arguably have the two best duos in the NBA in the form of Leonard and George, and James and Davis. That storyline coupled with the fact that they are both L.A. teams should be enough, but there is even more to it than that.

Leonard had his pick of the litter in free agency, and it is widely believed that he was deciding between staying with the Raptors or signing with either the Clippers or Lakers. Leonard chose the Clippers, which essentially saved the NBA from another superteam since LeBron, AD and Kawhi would have been virtually unbeatable if healthy.

That means Leonard could hear some boos from the fans in attendance, although there should be a good mix of Clippers and Lakers fans, which will make for a fun environment.

From a micro perspective, the matchup of LeBron vs. Kawhi will take center stage as well. They have plenty of history, as the James-led Miami Heat faced the Leonard-led San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals twice.

Each team won once in that scenario, with LeBron earning one NBA Finals MVP and Leonard landing the other.

There may be no better one-on-one matchup in the NBA because of the manner in which their skill sets mesh, and whoever wins that particular matchup in the first meeting and as a whole over the course of the season may push their team to victory.

These teams will also meet on Christmas Day, an excellent way to spend the holiday for NBA fans.

        

Toronto Raptors (Road Game: Dec. 11)

When the Clippers make their yearly trek to Toronto during the 2019-20 campaign, it will mark Leonard's first time back in the city since spurning the Raptors in favor of L.A. in free agency.

That would normally warrant a chilly reaction, but that likely won't be the case for Kawhi since he was the driving force behind the first title in Raptors history.

Raptors fans undoubtedly would have loved for Leonard to re-sign and help them make a run at multiple championships, but his one year in Toronto will always be remembered fondly, and he figures to receive a standing ovation and a heartfelt video package in his honor.

Aside from the emotional aspect of the game with Kawhi's return, it should also be entertaining from a basketball perspective.

Although the Raptors likely won't be true championship contenders, they still figure to be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference with Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet leading the way.

With Leonard gone, Siakam is poised to take another significant leap forward after being named the NBA's Most Improved Player last season. Given his length and athleticism, a one-on-one matchup with either Kawhi or George in the game seems likely as well.

A Siakam vs. Leonard matchup would be something to behold on both ends of the floor, and it would provide Siakam with a major test in terms of determining whether he is ready to be the go-to guy on a team.

Siakam deferred to Leonard often during Toronto's championship run, but if the Raptors are going to be a top team next season, then he needs to take on the role of alpha male.

Leonard already is that and has been throughout his career, and he figures to make Raptors fans long for the days when he was running the show north of the border.

          

Prediction

Barring a major injury to Leonard or George, the Clippers have all the makings of a top team in the Western Conference and a squad capable of making a deep playoff run.

While most of the focus will be on L.A.'s Big Two, it is important to note that the Clippers have plenty of talent beyond them as well.

Last season, the Clippers pushed the Golden State Warriors to six games in the first round of the playoffs despite not having a true star. Most of that team is back with the exception of Gilgeous-Alexander and Gallinari, who were sent to OKC in the George trade.

Among the top players returning to the fray are guards Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley and Landry Shamet, forward Montrezl Harrell and center Ivica Zubac.

Williams averaged 20.0 points per game off the bench and was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year last season for the third time in his career. Meanwhile, Beverley continued to play lockdown perimeter defense and Shamet was named to the NBA All-Rookie second team after knocking down 42.2 percent of his three-pointers.

Harrell enjoyed a career year with 16.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game primarily as a bench player, and Zubac averaged 9.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game after the Clippers acquired him from the Lakers last season.

The Clippers have a deep, talented team led by two MVP candidates, and that should ensure that they are one of the last teams remaining in the field come playoff time.

Perhaps the only thing capping their potential during the regular season is the possibility of load management. Kawhi missed 22 games last season after appearing in just nine the previous season, and if the Clippers take a similar approach with him, they will be ripe for the picking at times.

The Clippers are built for playoff success, though, and as long as they make it into the field, it is tough to envision them getting ousted at any point before the Western Conference Finals.

Record Prediction: 57-25