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Kawhi Leonard’s return puts the Clippers back in the Western Conference hunt


Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard
Photo: AP

It’d been almost 16 months since LA Clippers ahead Kawhi Leonard performed an NBA sport earlier than Tuesday evening’s preseason win over the Portland Trail Blazers. Leonard completed with 11 factors in 16 minutes however, extra importantly, absolutely recovered from the torn ACL he suffered in sport 4 of the 2021 Western Conference semifinals towards the Utah Jazz.

Last season the Clippers hung round via the first two months of the season with Paul George main the manner till he went down with an harm in late December. Paul missed over three months earlier than returning at the finish of March, however the harm had been finished. The Clippers fell from the high 5 when George was wholesome down into the play-in event, the place they had been eradicated, lacking the playoffs only one 12 months faraway from the franchise’s first WCF look.

That’s all behind them now, as a result of Leonard and George are back and wholesome, making the Clippers a favourite in the West this 12 months. Stacked up towards the remainder of the West, this LA group has the instruments and depth to make a run at the Warriors’ western convention crown.

Of course, all the pieces is based on Leonard’s means to keep on the flooring and be obtainable in the postseason. Based on that notion, the Clippers have greater than sufficient depth to compete with the finest groups in the NBA. Over the final two years, head coach Tyronn Lue has proved that he’s greater than a product of LeBron James. Lue can coach and has been labeled by many as the finest coach in the league at adjusting.

LA ought to be capable of go deep into their lineup, with 10 gamers receiving vital minutes on a given evening. Having that depth also needs to assist protect Leonard and George via the lengthy 82-game season.

In the backcourt alone, minutes will likely be tight with a six-guard rotation. Besides George, the Clippers have Reggie Jackson, Norman Powell, Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, and the latest addition John Wall as gamers that can battle for minutes on the flooring. Leonard, Ivica Zubac, Marcus Morris Sr., Nicolas Batum, and Robert Covington comprise the Clippers’ frontcourt and will all see vital minutes, relying on the matchup. And many of those gamers can play a number of positions.

The highway to successful in the NBA is tough, however these groups with depth are often amongst the final left standing in the finish. Sure, this league is about stars, however these stars additionally should be surrounded by items that match their sport and what they do finest on the court docket. The Clippers nonetheless don’t have a real place to begin guard, as Jackson is extra of a combo guard, however as we’ve seen in the previous, he can definitely get the job finished in huge moments when referred to as upon.

But once more, none of this issues with out Leonard on the court docket when it issues. Depth is unbelievable — we simply noticed the Warriors and Celtics meet in the Finals possessing two of the deeper rosters in the affiliation. Hopefully, there gained’t be a necessity for an excessive amount of load administration in Clipperland this 12 months, and Leonard can play no less than 65 video games. That’s a feat he hasn’t completed since he was in San Antonio.

Again, the fundamental objective is to maintain Leonard and PG-13 wholesome sufficient to make a run in the playoffs. This is what the Clippers must be centered on heading into the 2022-23 marketing campaign. You get to play a number of dangerous groups via the course of an NBA season. These Clippers are ok to beat most groups in this league. Against the high 4 or 5 groups in the NBA is the place stars and depth will likely be most necessary. If the Clippers can get via the season primarily healthy, there isn’t any cause they’ll’t be proper back in the WCF. 

Source: deadspin.com


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