The Los Angeles Clippers start their season in less than ten days. So far the team has looked great in the preseason – flashing signs of good health and overall fun.
Ahead of tip-off in the regular season, the Clippers saw their former stars Kawhi Leonard and John Wall show off their rebounding again, proving they “still got it.” Most importantly, the team looks deserving of high offseason praise and spots in the power rankings.
Los Angeles is poised to dominate this year. They have a deep roster filled with players who have a lot to prove. Amid championship talks, here are five storylines to watch during the Clippers’ 2022-’23 season.
Is Kawhi Leonard the same Kawhi Leonard?
In addition to the 2021 Western Conference Finals, Klaw has missed the entire 2021-’22 NBA season. Since Leonard’s infamous ACL tear, the league has missed his game — and more so the Clippers.
Leonard’s injury is really interesting because of the timing and history of leg problems. The two-way superstar just turned 31 and has publicly expressed that he has been dealing with a chronic knee injury/irritation for the past few years. There were question marks when Leonard returned to the court recently, with most wanting to see how well he was moving and whether he could return to his pre-injury state. In his home state, he falls into the category of “middle-aged” hoopers in the league, with many players starting to show signs of decline in their early to mid-30s. So far so good for Kawhi, though.
The last time No. 2 was on the floor in a big game, he had 31 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. in game 4 vs. Utah (2021). Although that contest was more than a year ago, Leonard has looked just as good in preseason practices and games. Of course, no one has seen Leonard go up against LeBron or Durant (yet), but he seems to be on track to be just fine. The speculation surrounding the health of the Clippers franchise cornerstone is something to keep an eye on all year long.
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Does John Wall still have gas in the tank?
After sitting out the entire year in Houston, many are wondering if former All-Star guard John Wall can make the team better. Los Angeles is a team that should take a chance, as they essentially traded elite backup big Isaiah Hartenstein, now a New York Knick, for a point guard.
In his decade-long season, Wall averaged 19.1 points, 9.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. His most dominant skill is passing, where he ranks second behind former Clipper Chris Paul in average assists per night among active players.
Wall will battle with Reggie Jackson for starting quarterback responsibilities. According to head coach Tyronn Lue, the team still doesn’t know who has what role.
Over the last few years, Wall hasn’t had the opportunity to contribute to basketball as much as he would like. He has dealt with severe injuries and lost monumental figures in his life, causing him to fall into a rough mental state.
So far, he seems extremely happy with the Clippers. Hitting “Dougie” again and showing off in the preseason. All NBA fans should be rooting for him this year.
Related: 3 Bold Predictions for the Los Angeles Clippers’ 2022-’23 Season
Who is the third star of the Los Angeles Clippers?
Paul George recently announced that he is the official “number two” for teammate Kawhi Leonard. Still, this begs the question: who is next in importance or team brand?
There is no wrong answer.
Los Angeles has a surplus of guys who could be the third key piece in addition to PG13 and Klaw. The team has plenty of shooters and defenders who can take the heat off the foundation of the Clippers franchise while playing the court themselves.
Expected candidates are Norman Powell, John Wall and Reggie Jackson. He can achieve all this on his own and create a healthy asset without being in the limelight.
Powell, in particular, seems to be the best fit for the job. He averaged 21.4 points in his short time in LA and just dropped 34 points on 79% shooting in the team’s final preseason contest. He also played big minutes alongside Leonard in Toronto, where the Southern California natives won a title together.
Los Angeles’ third weapon must be able to complement No. 2 and No. 13.
Related: Los Angeles Clippers Top 10 Rankings of All Time; See where Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are
Are there reasons the Clips should make the trade?
Throughout the offseason, the Clippers have been praised for their depth and roster structure. But there is still the possibility that things may not go according to plan.
For one thing, Los Angeles only has one true, confident center on the depth chart. Ivica Zubac has been holding the starting job for years, he has proven to be one of the better rim protectors in the association. With Hartenstein gone, the center position is something to watch as the team’s reliance on “small ball” can struggle against bigger teams. Maybe the Clippers make a move to reduce the pressure on Zubac.
Spilling teams of wings and shooters can also trigger a move. Guys like Marcus Morris and Luke Kennard, both starter-caliber players, could see fewer minutes in Los Angeles than elsewhere. If those two can be packaged for another star or major capital, the Clippers might want to look into the possibilities.
The Clippers shouldn’t be expected to make a trade, but it also shouldn’t be a surprise if it happens.
Related: Examining 3 Los Angeles Clippers Players Who Could Finish the ’22-’23 Season in Second Place
What are the best Clippers combinations?
The Clippers have one or two guys at every position who can be starters on most teams in the NBA. That’s a good but tough problem for Coach Lue to have — because he has to choose who sits and closes games.
Fortunately, there are no bad options. All players besides Leonard and George should be productive, and this roster lives by the 3-iD ideology. The combination of Robert Covington, Nick Batum and Terrance Mann with potential “third star” guards will cause problems for opposing defenses. Factor in the option to switch everything defensively while playing “five-out” on offense, and Los Angeles is in business.
Lue has the option to go big or small with his lineups. He can play with two or three guards, and he can play with five forwards. Everyone is likely to see success on the floor.
If history has shown anything, it’s that we should expect Coach Lue to experiment with everything. It makes sense, as the team needs to know what they’re doing before their hoped-for championship run.
Keep an eye out for top five groups for the Clips this season.
Related: 2022-2023 Los Angeles Clippers roster: Ranking the best players from Kawhi Leonard to John Wall