2024 NBA Playoffs Takeaways: What’s next for Clippers? Can they run it back?

Los Angeles Clippers v Dallas Mavericks - Game Six
Los Angeles Clippers v Dallas Mavericks - Game Six

Things move fast in the NBA playoffs, so to help you stay on top of things, from now through at least the end of the second round, we will have nightly takeaways from the postseason action.

What’s next for Clippers? Do they run it back?

The Clippers were bounced in the first round for the second consecutive year. That's not what Clippers management and ownership expected from an incredibly expensive roster — they were nearly $20 million over the second tax apron, and their salary+tax for this season came to $342.4 million (second only to the Warriors). Think of it this way: Five teams paid less in total salary than the Clippers did in tax.

In the face of that, what do the Clippers want to do?

Run it back.

Run it back and hope for better health in the playoffs.

"Once we figured it out, like we had a really great stretch, you know, going 26-5," coach Tyrone Lue said of his team after it acquired James Harden. "After that, we had some injuries. Guys in and out, minute restrictions, stuff like that kind of killed our flow."

That stretch where the Clippers went 28-7 before the All-Star break provides hope — the Clippers looked like a legitimate threat to Denver in the West for those couple of months.

Next season, the Clippers move into the new Intuit Dome in Inglewood (near the NFL's Rams Sofi Stadium). It will be a groundbreaking, state-of-the-art arena, and owner Steve Ballmer wants to do that with a roster to open that building that's a threat to make a deep playoff run. So they run it back.

The Clippers have already locked in Leonard with an extension, and he took a slight discount from the max he could have demanded. The Clippers wanted George to take a haircut, too, but he may be less willing to help out ownership against the tax because he has options. Both the 76ers and Magic are known to have interest in George and they have the cap space to max him out, which may leave the Clippers with few options if they want him back. And even if the Clippers put a full max on the table for PG13, if he wants to walk out the door he can and all the Clippers can do is watch.

The Clippers and James Harden can't start negotiating until after the NBA Finals end, but both sides want to continue this relationship. The Clippers also want to reach an extension with Tyrone Lue, who is under contract for one more year to coach the team (even if the sides don't reach an extension, the Clippers are not going to let Lue walk across town and coach the Lakers next season, he will still be a Clippers' employee).

The Clippers' only other option besides running it back is to start tearing it down and rebuilding, and the franchise is not ready for that, not as they move into a new building.

So they run it back and hope that next season they hit the playoffs healthy.

We’ve got a Game 7

Cleveland got the monster game from its backcourt we've been waiting for — Donovan Michell dropped 50, and Darius Garland added 21.

It wasn't enough — Orlando won behind a young, balanced attack and forced a Game 7, the first of these playoffs (on Sunday in Cleveland).

Sunday's game is pressure-packed for the Cavaliers. If this roster is healthy but still not good enough to get out of the first round, massive changes will come (they might be anyway). Has it become clear enough that bigs Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen — both good players individually—don't mesh well and need to be broken up, with one being sent out in a trade?

More importantly, how much does what happens in Game 7 influence Mitchell's decision on whether or not to sign a max contract extension the team will offer him this summer? If he doesn't sign and is heading into his final season under contract, the Cavaliers would be forced to consider a trade rather than let him walk for nothing.

It's not too much to say the Cavaliers' future could hang in the balance on Sunday. Win, and the hard questions are put off as Cleveland packs for Boston and the chance to prove itself against the best of the East. Lose, and the questions come flooding in.

Orlando knows its direction — and Friday's Game 6 win at home confirmed it's the right direction. The Magic's core is mostly in place. Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner became the youngest tandem in NBA history to each score 25+ points in an elimination game.

Jamahl Mosley tried to start the game big, playing Jalen Suggs with Wagner, Jonathan Isaac, Banchero, and Wendell Carter Jr. — everyone but Suggs in that lineup is at least 6'10". It didn't really work. All season, the Magic needed more perimeter shot creation, ideally a veteran point guard who could organize the offense and get some buckets. Cole Anthony and Markell Fultz came off the bench and filled that role in Game 6, at least well enough that the team is moving on to Game 7.

The Magic are a team on the rise and these playoffs have confirmed that — the Magic are on the path to being very, very good.

Which is exactly where it felt like the Cavaliers were a few years ago, but they have not taken the next step. They need to on Sunday or times, they are a changin'.