Last season, with the Clippers out of the playoffs, I decided it would be fun to keep tabs on all of the former Clippers in the NBA Playoffs. While the Clippers made it again this year, I figured that after their early exit, why not take another look? Once a Clipper, always a Clipper, right? Well, maybe. Let’s take a look at where some of our former friends are thriving (even the ones who Clipper Nation isn’t so fond of anymore). We’ll check in as the playoffs go on to see how they’re performing.
East: 1. Milwaukee Bucks vs 8. Miami Heat (Miami won in 5)
Despite the presence of some notorious almost-Clippers from rumors over the last few years (like Kyle Lowry, Duncan Robinson, and Goran Dragic) and one infamous 2014 training camp cut (Joe Ingles), no players who appeared in this historic 1-8 upset ever played a (regular season) game as a Clipper.
East: 2. Boston Celtics vs 7. Atlanta Hawks (Celtics won in 6)
Boston: Clipper legend Blake Griffin was a substitute for the Brooklyn Nets last year as they were swept by the Celtics; this year, he was a part-time backup for Boston (14 minutes per game in 41 appearances). He had an uneventful 6-minute shift in the fourth quarter of Boston’s game 5 loss to Atlanta in his only appearance of the series. With Al Horford, Robert Williams, and Grant Williams all ahead of him, it’s unlikely that Blake will get significant meaningful time in this Celtics run. Boston’s bench also includes Clipper-for-a-day Mike Muscala (who never played for the team but was part of the Tobias Harris trade before immediately being flipped to the Lakers for Ivica Zubac) and notable former Clipper Danilo Gallinari. Gallo hasn’t played this season after tearing his ACL in international play last summer; it’s possible that he could return during this run but unlikely he’d have a significant role given the circumstances. If he returns to the active roster, we’ll add him to the rankings in these roundups. Former Clipper first round pick Mfiondu Kabengele is a Celtics two-way contract player and ineligible to appear in the playoffs.
Hawks: The Hawks are another Clipperless team in these playoffs–perhaps a consequence of LAC having such old rosters for much the last decade.
East: 3. Philadelphia 76ers vs 6. Brooklyn Nets (Sixers swept)
Sixers: There are some obvious former Clippers here, as Doc Rivers and Montrezl Harrell are reunited. Trez is a deep bench guy for the Sixers, as Paul Reed took the game 4 start with Joel Embiid injured and Trez played just 5 first half minutes off the bench before not appearing in the second half. We’ll see how involved he gets in the second round if Embiid remains sidelined. Tobias Harris, on the other hand, is in a much bigger role, starting and averaging 20 points and 9 rebounds on 57/57/100 shooting splits in Philly’s first round sweep. PJ Tucker, who starts alongside Tobias at forward, has somehow still never been a Clipper.
Nets: Brooklyn’s roster is full of former Clipper playoff opponents (Patty Mills, Seth Curry, Mikal Bridges, Royce O’Neale, Cameron Johnson, and Dorian Finney-Smith), but no actual former Clippers, something the Nets will surely look to address in the offseason.
East: 4. Cleveland Cavaliers vs 5. New York Knicks (Knicks won in 5)
Cavs: Another 0-Clipper team (though, again, it feels weird that Ricky Rubio and Danny Green never made it to LAC despite years of rumors). At least the teams without Clippers are the ones getting eliminated.
Knicks: The Knicks have a lot of their own draft picks on their roster, limiting the possibilities here, but backup center Isaiah Hartenstein is playing a significant role: averaging 20 minutes, 4 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and a block in the first round. Tom Thibideau famously plays a short bench, so getting a 20 minute reserve role in the playoffs is a sign of trust–I imagine that there will be some games where Hartenstein plays less due to gameplanning and some where he gets it going and they lean on him heavily.
West: 1. Denver Nuggets vs 8. Minnesota Timberwolves (Nuggets won in 5)
Nuggets: The Nuggets have maybe the best top-6 in the NBA… and little else. Included in that little else are a trio of former Clippers. In the first round, Jeff Green was the clear 7th man in Denver’s rotation, playing 23 minutes per game despite shooting just 35% from the field and 20% from deep. He stayed in that role in game 1 of the second round vs the Suns and shot 1-5, so we’ll see if/when a shallow Denver team looks elsewhere. DeAndre Jordan and Reggie Jackson are more notable former Clippers that play a deep bench role for Denver; both seem like they could be candidates for spot minutes if Jamal Murray or Nikola Jokic is resting, hurt, or in foul trouble. Jordan’s athletic decline is well-documented and Jackson shot just 28% from three after arriving in Denver, so don’t expect either to be featured much.
Wolves: The only former Clipper on the Wolves is Austin Rivers, who saw inconsistent minutes in his team’s first-round loss but had a solid impact defensively off the bench in their sole win in game 4. Austin is probably past being featured in a team’s rotation throughout the year, but he can be counted upon to compete on defense in the playoffs.
West: 2. Memphis Grizzlies vs 7. Los Angeles Lakers (Lakers won in 6)
Grizzlies: The Grizzlies added their only former Clipper, Luke Kennard, at the deadline this year. He did his job in this series, hitting 50% of his threes en route to averaging 7 points in 21 minutes per game, but missed their embarrassing finale with an injury as the 2-seed suffered 3 of their 4 first-round losses by double figures.
Lakers: The two LA teams have picked up each other’s former players a lot over the years, but the only former Clipper currently on the Lakers is backup energy big man Wenyen Gabriel, who played 6 games for the Clippers as a COVID replacement. Wenyen is on the fringes of the Lakers rotation and got most of his 20 first-round minutes in noncompetitive blowouts.
West: 3. Sacramento Kings vs 6. Golden State Warriors (Warriors won in 7)
Warriors: The only former Clipper in this series is JaMychal Green, who played a small bench role for the Warriors in the regular season and just 15 minutes total in the first round. It seems like Jonathan Kuminga is Steve Kerr’s preferred option off the bench, although I wouldn’t rule out some JaMyke cameos.
Kings: No Clippers here either!
West: 4. Phoenix Suns vs 5. LA Clippers (Suns won in 5)
Suns: We just watched this series, so I don’t need to tell you about former Clippers Chris Paul and Landry Shamet struggling as Devin Booker lifted them over the ragtag Clippers.
Clippers: All of the Clippers are future former Clippers, but only Eric Gordon is a former Clipper and a current Clipper–though he probably isn’t a future Clipper anymore.
FCIT2023NBAPPR (Former Clippers In The 2023 NBA Playoffs Power Rankings)
(A purely subjective, mixed-criteria list where I rank former the former Clippers who have played in this year’s playoffs on a combination of how well they’re playing in this year’s playoffs–the most important factor–and their role, team success, importance to Clipper history, and how much I like them.)
- Tobias Harris
- Doc Rivers
- Chris Paul
- Isaiah Hartenstein
- Luke Kennard
- Jeff Green (rough list when he’s in the top half, but he’s playing a lot in wins)
- Austin Rivers
- Landry Shamet
- Wenyen Gabriel
- Blake Griffin
- DeAndre Jordan
- Montrezl Harrell
- JaMychal Green
- Reggie Jackson
As far as I can tell, that’s it for former Clippers in the 2022 NBA Playoffs! Did I miss anyone who should be included in the next roundup? Who are you rooting for, and who are you rooting against? Is there anyone who you are most excited to follow over the coming weeks?