The Los Angeles Clippers kick off their season in less than ten days. So far, the team has looked excellent in the preseason — flashing signs of good health and overall fun.
Ahead of the regular season’s tip-off, the Clippers saw their previously sidelined stars Kawhi Leonard and John Wall re-showcase their bounce, proving they “still got it.” Most importantly, the team looks deserving of their high offseason praise and spots in power rankings.
Los Angeles is poised to dominate this year. They have a deep roster filled with players who have a lot to prove. Amidst championship talks, here are five storylines to follow throughout the Clippers’ 2022-’23 season.
Is Kawhi Leonard the same Kawhi Leonard?
In addition to the 2021 Western Conference Finals, the Klaw missed the entirety of the 2021-’22 NBA season. Since Leonard’s infamous ACL tear, the league has missed his play — and more so have the Clippers.
Leonard’s injury is truly interesting because of the timing and his history of leg issues. The two-way superstar just turned 31 years old and has expressed publicly that he’s been dealing with a chronic knee injury/irritation over the last few years. Question marks have arisen as Leonard recently returned to the court, with most wanting to see how well he moves and if he can return to his pre-injured state. At his state, he falls into the “middle-aged” category of hoopers in the league, with many players starting to show signs of decline in their early to mid-30s. However, so far, so good for Kawhi.
The last time No. 2 was on the floor in a meaningful game, he posted 31 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals in Game 4 versus Utah (2021). Even though that contest was well over a year ago, Leonard has looked just as good in practice clips and preseason play. Sure, no one has seen Leonard face a Lebron or Durant (yet), but he seems to be on track to be just fine. The speculation surrounding the Clippers’ franchise cornerstone’s health is something to pay attention to throughout the year.
Related: 5 BIG NBA storylines for opening week, including Golden State Warriors and Deandre Ayton drama
Does John Wall have any gas left in the tank?
After sitting out an entire year in Houston, many wonder if former All-Star guard John Wall can make teams better. Los Angeles is the team to take the chance, as they essentially swapped elite backup big Isaiah Hartenstein, who is now a New York Knick, for the playmaking guard.
In his decade’s worth of seasons, Wall has averaged 19.1 points, 9.1 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game. His most dominant skill is his passing, where he ranks second behind ex-Clipper, Chris Paul in average assists per night among active players.
Wall will contend with Reggie Jackson for starting point guard responsibilities. According to head coach Tyronn Lue, the team still doesn’t know who serves what role just yet.
Over the last few years, Wall hasn’t had the opportunity to contribute to basketball as he’d like. He dealt with severe injuries and lost monumental figures in his life, causing him to swirl down into a rough mental state.
So far, he seems extremely happy with the Clippers. He’s hitting the “Dougie” again and has been showing out in the preseason. All NBA fans should be rooting for him this year.
Related: 3 bold predictions for Los Angeles Clippers’ 2022-’23 season
Who is the Los Angeles Clippers’ third star?
Paul George recently went public about being the team’s official “number two” to co-star Kawhi Leonard. Though, this bears the question: who is next in line to the team’s importance or brand?
There is no wrong answer.
Los Angeles has a surplus of guys who could be the third key piece next to PG13 and the Klaw. The team has many scorers and defenders who can take the heat off of the Clippers’ franchise cornerstones while making plays on the court themselves.
The expected candidates are Norman Powell, John Wall, and Reggie Jackson. All of which can score and generate healthy possessions on their own while not being the centers of attention.
In particular, Powell seems the fittest for the job. He’s averaged 21.4 points in his short time in LA and just dropped 34 points on 79% shooting in the team’s last preseason contest. He’s also played big minutes next to 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: Ranking the top 10 greatest Los Angeles Clippers of all time; See where Kawhi Leonard and Paul George rank
Are there any reasons the Clips should make a trade?
All offseason long, the Clippers have been praised for their depth and roster construction. But there is still the possibility that things don’t go accordingly.
For one, Los Angeles only has one true, confident center on the depth chart. Ivica Zubac has held the starting job for years now, proving to be one of the better rim protectors in the association. With no more Hartenstein, the center position is something to follow as the team’s reliance on “small ball” might struggle against bigger teams. Perhaps, the Clippers make a move to decrease the pressure on Zubac.
The team’s overflow of wings and shooters may induce a move as well. Guys like Marcus Morris and Luke Kennard, both starting-caliber players, could see fewer minutes in Los Angeles than they would elsewhere. If the two can be packaged for another star or draft capital, the Clippers might want to consider the possibilities.
It shouldn’t be expected that the Clippers make a trade, but it also shouldn’t be a surprise if it happens.
Related: Examining 3 Los Angeles Clippers players that could end their ’22-’23 seasons elsewhere
What are the Clippers’ best lineup combinations?
The Clippers have one or two guys at every position that can be a starter on most teams in the NBA. It’s a good yet difficult problem for coach Lue to have — as he has to choose who sits and closes games.
Fortunately, there aren’t any bad options. Any players next to Leonard and George should be productive, and this roster lives off of the 3-and-D ideology. The mix of Robert Covington, Nico Batum, and Terance Mann with the potential “third-star” guards will cause trouble 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, or he can play with five forwards. All will likely see success on the floor.
If history has shown anything, it’s that we should anticipate seeing coach Lue experiment with everything. It makes sense, as the team needs to know what works ahead of their hopeful championship run.
Keep an eye out for the best groups of five for the Clips this season.
Related: 2022-2023 Los Angeles Clippers roster: Ranking the best players from Kawhi Leonard to John Wall