LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 11: Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Sparks basketball teams and Los Angeles Kings hockey team in Los Angeles, California on September 11, 2017. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

After a long five months of preseason moves, trades, and draft picks, the 2017-2018 NBA season is finally underway. Many teams went through a big transformation, but you could make the argument that the two Los Angeles teams; the Clippers and Lakers have gone through the most changes. Here is your Clippers Lakers preview for the 2017-2018 NBA season.

Clippers Offseason Moves

One of the biggest moves of the offseason was the trade that sent nine-time all-star point guard Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets. Paul left the Clippers because he feels he can compete more for a title with James Harden and the Rockets, following another Clippers first round playoff exit. Paul did opt in his deal with L.A. so he can be traded for a total of seven players and a 2018 NBA Draft pick. Among those players were point guard Patrick Beverley, shooting guard Lou Williams, small forward Sam Dekker, and power forward Montrezl Harrell. The Clippers also picked up small forward Danilo Gallinari, center Willie Reed, and European star point guard Milos Teodosic.

Lakers Offseason Moves

The Los Angeles Lakers suffered another terrible season, mostly due to tanking and turmoil from hazardous relationships with the players and the organization. The Lakers traded point guard D’Angelo Russell and center Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets in return for center Brook Lopez, power forward Kyle Kuzma and the 27th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. The Lakers also let small forward Nick “Swaggy P” Young become an unrestricted free agent where he signed with the Golden State Warriors. By far the biggest move for the Lakers was the drafting former UCLA Bruins point guard Lonzo Ball. With all the hype (and distractions), Ball is likely to become the face of the franchise for years after a great preseason and training camp.

Starting Lineups

Lakers

For the Lakers, Lonzo Ball will likely play his first career NBA game as a starter at point guard. At UCLA, Ball averaged 14.6 points per game, 6 rebounds per game, 1.8 steals per game, 7.6 assists per game, and averaged a .551% field-goal percentage. Ball an electrifying player, creating plays throughout the court and sharing the ball to other teammates. Despite former Detroit Piston Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and his potential, he will be suspended for the first two games due to a DUI from last March.

Veteran Lakers Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram will make the start at shooting guard and small forward, respectively. Power forward Julius Randle hopes to stay healthy for the Lakers and become the consistent hard-nosed defender, unfortunately, he will out with a rib injury. Larry Nance Jr. will the starting power forward for the Lakers and will have a tough first start against Clippers star power forward Blake Griffin. Center Brook Lopez will be the starting fifth player for the Lakers.

Clippers

Despite losing Chris Paul, the Clippers feel very comfortable with center DeAndre Jordan and power forward Blake Griffin back for the 2017-2018 season. They will continue to be one of the top front-courts in the NBA, and will serve as the permanent leaders of the newly motivated and calm-headed Clippers team. The Clippers lost an NBA first All-Defensive player in Paul, but got another one right back in point guard Patrick Beverly from the Houston Rockets.

Last season, Beverly’s role with Houston was decreased as they initiated James Harden as their main ball-handler. As a starter for the Clippers, Beverly will not only handle the ball as a true point guard, but he will be the best defender on the court (along with center DeAndre Jordan) and is already becoming a key vocal leader as well. The Clippers finally acquired a great scoring small forward in Danilo Gallinari from the Denver Nuggets in a three-team trade. Gallinari will be the reliable wing-scoring forward that L.A. hasn’t had in a long time. Veteran Austin Rivers will finally make a season-starter debut for L.A. after J.J. Redick went to the Philadelphia 76ers via free agency.

Patrick Beverly vs. Lonzo Ball

The talk before the game will be on Lakers’ rookie point guard Lonzo Ball for multiple reasons. One is the tremendous performance he brings to the Lakers as an all-around point guard, both offensively and defensively. Another is the hype he brings from his father, Lavar Ball, which many might see as a big distraction. One thing or another, the talk has elevated Lonzo’s stock during the preseason. Now comes the regular season where Lonzo will be playing in more aggressive game formats and play-styles. The first test for Lonzo will not be an easy one he will have to go against the Clippers’ new reliable guard defender in Patrick Beverley.

Beverly was named to the 2017 All-Defensive First Team, along with former Clippers Chris Paul. Last season, Patrick Beverley accounted for 1.5 steals per game and 5.9 rebounds per game. Beverley is a lockdown defender that will stick to his man and will take matters into his own hands, rebounding the ball to secure a strong defensive play. Lonzo will need to be alert on all his passes while in intense coverage from Beverley. Beverley is known to force mistakes from opposing point guards. Lonzo will also have to deal with Beverley on offense as he’s trying to prove himself more as an offensive playmaker since he was limited in Houston.

Final Analysis

This first game between the Lakers and Clippers will be one of the biggest games in the Thursday night portion of the NBA season tipoff. There are more questions than answers before a season tipoff. Training camps and the preseason games do not indicate what kind of team you will have in the regular season. One thing is for certain, the new faces and leadership will force a change in outlook where the Clippers and Lakers are both looking to dethrone the Golden State Warriors in not only the Pacific Division, but overall in the Western Conference.

Players to Watch

One player to watch out for in this matchup is Clippers small forward Danilo Gallinari. Gallo is looking to immediately make a great impression with his new Clippers team as a team captain. Gallinari is the best offensive small forward to come to the Clippers lineup in a long time. A mismatch between him and Lakers small forward Brandon Ingram could create a lot of scoring opportunities for Gallinari. DeAndre Jordan will have a battle throughout the game against Brook Lopez but Jordan is by far the better rebounder. Last season, Lopez accounted for 5.4 rebounds per game with the Brooklyn Nets while DeAndre Jordan accounted for 13.8 rebounds per game.

Another case in the Clippers favor is the support of the bench. The Clippers traded their backup shooting guard and three-time Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford in the deal for Danilo Gallinari. Crawford was great last season but is 37 years old and was showing signs of deteriorating at the end of the season.

2015 Sixth Man of the Year, shooting guard Lou Williams not only has the youth but the remarkable shooting skills that match Chris Paul in clutch situations. Point guard Miles Teodosic is already duplicating incredible passes and assists he has been making in the European League. Teodosic will be a fun player to watch playing with Griffin and Jordan to continue the “Lob City” tradition.

Prediction

With so much experience and star-playing ability, the Los Angeles Clippers have the potential for a great season and a good playoff run. They will have to come together as a team and sort through any rust and negative factors that have knocked them out of the NBA playoffs for the past 6 seasons. While the Lakers are on a good start to rebuild the franchise, they don’t have enough top NBA stars to stay in the game and score as much as the Clippers.

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