Four Clippers who need to step up with Kawhi Leonard out in order to keep championship hopes alive

The Los Angeles Clippers ought to have all of the momentum on this planet. They’re coming off the primary convention finals look in franchise historical past, having exorcised the demons of years of horrific playoff collapses within the course of. The NBA‘s resident playoff goat, Paul George, compelled folks to begin utilizing “Playoff P” unironically with a superb postseason. Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum, veterans nearly given up on by the remainder of the league, regained their standing as helpful and productive function gamers.

However no one is speaking concerning the Clippers as a severe title contender as a result of indefinite absence of Kawhi Leonard, who suffered {a partially} torn ACL throughout the Western Convention semifinals, and has no timetable for a return. Leonard and his camp are notoriously tight-lipped in the case of accidents, and this version has been no completely different.

“Simply working with the employees day-to-day, after which when that out there date comes, we’ll be prepared for it, and it will be out within the public,” Leonard stated on Clippers media day.

Very useful stuff.

It is laborious to gauge the Clippers’ championship prospects for this season with out realizing if and when Leonard will return, however they proved throughout the postseason that they do not want Leonard to be a superb staff, dispatching the Utah Jazz and taking two video games off of the Phoenix Suns with out their finest participant.

To ensure that the Clippers to achieve success this season, nevertheless, just a few gamers have to step up. Here is a fast take a look at the roster, and 4 gamers who will go a great distance in figuring out the Clippers’ common season.  

Los Angeles Clippers roster

Nicely, duh. George must be each little bit of the alpha that he was within the postseason, when he averaged 29.6 factors, 11 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.4 steals in eight video games after Leonard’s damage. His 47/41/87 taking pictures splits from final common season may undergo with extra defensive consideration, and he’ll have to tackle extra playmaking tasks with Leonard on the shelf and nonetheless no true level guard on the roster (no offense, Eric Bledsoe). The excellent news is that George has confirmed himself greater than able to working the half-court offense, within the 84th percentile final season as a pick-and-roll ball-handler together with assists, in response to Synergy Sports activities.

If George might be an All-NBA candidate throughout the common season, the Clippers must be in first rate place to make a playoff run if and when Leonard returns. If he will get injured or struggles for a protracted interval, issues may go downhill.

I just lately listed Mann because the Clippers’ most likely breakout candidate for this season, and his $22 million extension clearly reveals that the Clippers agree. As a substitute of making an attempt to summarize myself, I will simply copy and paste my reasoning right here:

Mann grew to become a superb function participant for the Clippers final season, however he’ll be requested to do way more with Kawhi Leonard out of the lineup for the foreseeable future. Mann proved he may carry out on the massive stage, averaging 11.2 factors and three.1 rebounds on 42 % 3-point taking pictures after coming into the common rotation in Recreation 3 of the Western Convention semifinals in opposition to the Jazz. His 39-point, seven 3-pointer efficiency because the Clippers closed out Utah was one of many signature moments of the playoffs. Mann is an important member of the Clippers protection, and he’ll have extra alternatives to extend his 3-point quantity and aggressiveness towards the rim, which may result in a breakout season.

“The sport has slowed down for him. He understands, picks and chooses his spots,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said of Mann. “He is actually improved as a participant.”

Mann, together with George, will even draw the hardest defensive assignments night time in and night time out with Leonard on the sidelines. Subsequently Mann’s contributions on each ends clearly turn out to be much more vital, and he could possibly be an important X-factor for the Clippers this season.

Continuously predicting the Luke Kennard breakout season seems like Gretchen Wieners futilely making an attempt to make “fetch” occur in Imply Ladies.

Kennard is already an elite shooter — he made a blistering 45 % of his 3-pointers final season — however he is additionally showcased tantalizing playmaking means that the Clippers desperately want with Leonard out of the lineup. In restricted alternatives final season, Kennard was within the 72nd percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler together with passes, per Synergy.

Again in 2019-20 with the Pistons, Kennard averaged over 4 assists per recreation, so he is definitely able to being a playmaker. He is simply but to do it persistently with the Clippers.

Ibaka gave the Clippers a brand new dimension final season — a middle who may defend the rim and likewise stretch to the 3-point line. Sadly, he was solely in a position to play in 41 video games and missed all however 18 minutes of the Clippers’ run to the convention finals. The Clippers have been higher on each ends of the ground final season with Ibaka on the courtroom, with the offensive score enhancing by over two factors per 100 possessions.

After again surgical procedure in June, Ibaka has but to progress to 5-on-5 work, however he’ll present an vital ingredient for the Clippers when he does return, notably if Leonard continues to be out. The Clippers discovered success within the postseason with small lineups, however these may not be sustainable with out Leonard, among the finest perimeter defenders of all time, or a middle to guard the rim. Enter Ibaka, who can stretch the ground nicely sufficient on offense to simulate a small lineup whereas additionally offering some semblance of shot-blocking and rebounding.

If Ibaka can return wholesome, he’ll go a great distance in preserving the Clippers afloat till Leonard comes again. | 4 Clippers who have to step up with Kawhi Leonard out as a way to preserve championship hopes alive


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