Last year's Los Angeles Clippers surprised everyone. They started the season great, led by their best player Tobias Harris. A team with no stars and a lot of good players can do well in the regular season, but will usually lose in the playoffs. After they traded Harris to the 76ers, the regular season outlook wasn't looking so good.
When they finished the regular season with 48 wins in the Western Conference, almost everyone was surprised. The team built a blue-collar mentality with a strong defensive identity and a fantastic one-two punch from the bench. Montrezl Harrell was a revelation, and Lou Williams continued to amaze with his play off the bench and in the final minutes of close games.
The hardest thing for teams to develop is an identity that everyone buys into. Last year's Clippers had it. The team with no superstars that is ready to outwork anyone. This summer changed that identity. From the underdog, now they are the favorite.
With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers have two of the best two-way players in the NBA, legitimate superstars. With them on the team, will other players maintain their effort and drive to leave it all on the court? Lou Williams had no doubt (via LA Times):
I think it's important for us to maintain that mindset. I think that works in our favor with the personalities we have in our locker room. I don't know if there's a way to tell Pat Beverly to chill out. I don't think that changes.
A lot of veterans point out that often the team leader is not their best player. A player that captures the soul of the team, earns everyone's respect and leads by example is the one that gets everyone's ear. With the Clippers, it's without a doubt Patrick Beverly, and he is ready for the challenge (via LA Times):
It will be hard this year, of course. We're not the surprising Clippers that we were last year, surprising people. People know exactly who we are, the target's on our back so we're gonna get everyone's best punch. It's up to us to be ready, day in and day out.