The 2022 NBA season begins in a little over a month and since the dawn of the Kawhi Leonard-Paul George era, having high expectations is nothing new to the Los Angeles Clippers.
After trading for excellent role players Norman Powell and Robert Covington, and signing former All-Star facilitator John Wall this off-season, the team is ready to rock. With an extremely high ceiling, here are three potential outcomes for the 2022 edition of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Best-Case Scenario: Los Angeles Clippers bring an NBA title to the other side of LA
The best possible outcome for the Los Angeles Clippers would be winning the championship. Considering it would be the team’s first, the feat would bring members of the organization and fan base to tears. For a franchise that’s considered one of the worst in league history, such a moment would wipe away generations’ worth of debts while simultaneously putting the franchise on top of the basketball world.
The dream isn’t far-fetched. Los Angeles has a deep, talented roster with winning-friendly players all around. Any team with Leonard would be in contention for a title, and that’s before mentioning his partner-in-crime PG13. Factor in pieces like Nico Batum, Reggie Jackson, and Ivica Zubac, in addition to the latest acquisitions like Wall and Powell, and one can see the vision.
Los Angeles just made the Western Conference Finals in 2021. It was a Leonard ACL tear away from potentially facing the Milwaukee Bucks in the championship round. The majority of quality players from that roster remain, and the team features even more versatility and firepower than before. Last season, without Leonard entirely and George for the majority, the Clips supporting cast willed the team to a surprising 42 wins and play-in appearance.
The last time we saw Leonard and George on the floor together, they were averaging a combined 57.3 points, 17.3 rebounds, and 9.8 assists per game in the ’21 playoffs. If the duo can replicate those numbers, and the supporting cast continues their efforts, then the 2022 Clippers’ best-case scenario will become reality.
Worst-Case Scenario: Injuries again derail title aspirations
No one wants to see any injuries — anytime, anywhere. Unfortunately, it’s been the norm for Los Angeles as of late.
Leonard missed every game last year due to his torn ACL. George only appeared in 31 games because of ruptures in his shoulder. Their lack of appearances comes before mentioning Batum’s absence in 23 matchups, Marcus Morris’ 29, and Powell’s 37. Unfortunately, the team has grown accustomed to missing key players, which isn’t ideal.
The worst-case scenario for the Clippers in ’22-23 would be to have a duplicate of the season prior. Last year, the pressure was on both head coach Tyron Lue and reserves to step up every night, forcing them to scramble and adjust to missing players and altered game plans. Simply put, it was unfair.
Los Angeles can’t go through a season filled with injury again. There’s no predicting how many years of elite production George and Leonard have left, and the team has to win now as Ballmer has a new arena opening in a few years. Fortunately, the team is built to prevent heavy workloads and has enough depth to construct another starting five. However, things happen — hopefully, things don’t take a turn for the worst, and Reggie Jackson doesn’t have to be the team’s number one scoring option ever again.
Realistic Outcome: Clippers fall just short of the ultimate goal
Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks almost blew up the Clippers in 2021. Prior to the dramatics of the series with the Jazz and Suns, the Slovenian point-forward posted 35.7 points, 10.3 assists, and 7.9 rebounds per game in the first round against Los Angeles. The Mavs as a whole shot almost 40% from three and pushed the Clippers to their limits, ultimately losing to them in seven.
The point is that Los Angeles can do everything right and still run into unforeseen circumstances. No one expected the Clippers to lose their first three games at home versus Dallas, no one thought Luka could dissect such a decorated defense (for a second term), and no one thought that Tim Hardaway Jr. was about to earn a massive contract extension. As mentioned earlier, things happen. The playoffs invite all sorts of nonsense and shock.
Also, the Western Conference is stacked. Golden State is golden again, Phoenix is out for revenge, the Nuggets return Jamal Murray, Memphis and Dallas are on the rise, and the Lakers can’t remain embarrassing. There’s a lot going on before even discussing the Clippers. Though, Los Angeles is a serious threat itself. It shouldn’t be written off by any means, yet — and keep in mind, this is just a potential outcome. However, running into historic performances and stardom would be the most Clipper thing ever, so don’t rule it out.