The Clippers have had no shortage of disappointment throughout their history. 0 championships, seasons defined by injuries, and no NBA Finals appearances to show for it. During the Lob City, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan Era, the Clippers garnered a lot of hype, yet failed to reach the Western Conference Finals even once. Enter the Chris Paul choking jokes, but in all seriousness, the Clippers pivoted from that era to the Kawhi Leonard/Paul George era, which has had its disappointments as well.
The last time those two were both healthy throughout the playoffs, they blew a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Semi-Finals to the Denver Nuggets, which led to Doc Rivers’s tenure being over. They were cocky, thought they were the best team in the NBA and didn’t play with much effort in the playoffs during that 2019-2020 NBA season, which resulted in a motivated Los Angeles Lakers team winning the NBA title. Who’s to say that the Clippers weren’t a better team than that Lakers team? They won the regular season series against them and many NBA fans were hoping to see a Western Conference Finals between the two LA juggernauts.
Obviously, that didn’t happen, but expectations stayed the same the following season, after the hiring of Head Coach Tyronn Lue; it was championship or bust, and unlike the season before where the stars were fully healthy in the playoffs, Kawhi Leonard went down with an ACL tear in the final game of the first round series against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2021 NBA playoffs. Still, Paul George put the team on his back and the tenaciously defensive-minded Clippers upset the #1 seed Utah Jazz and appeared in their franchise’s first-ever Western Conference Finals. This was against all odds and even though the Phoenix Suns ended up defeating the Clippers in 6 games, hopes were high going into the 2021-2022 NBA season where Kawhi Leonard would hopefully be healthy.
However, just like the previous season, Leonard was still dealing with that same serious injury and failed ot return for the playoffs. In fact, Paul George had a UCL injury in his elbow and missed the multitude of the second half of the season as well. Despite still having Paul George healthy by the Play-In Tournament, the Clippers blew a 4th quarter lead against the Timberwolves and then lost to the New Orleans Pelicans to get eliminated from postseason contention.
Nonetheless, entering this season, the goal remains the same; win the first ever NBA title for the Clippers franchise, and they have definitely assembled the team to do so. The Clippers will get a healthy tandem of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to start the season (arguably the second best duo in basketball behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis) as well as the best supporting cast in all of basketball that includes Robert Covington, John Wall, Norman Powell, Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Nic Batum, Ivica Zubac, and Reggie Jackson.
In fact, signing John Wall for their taxpayer mid-level exception of just over 6.3 million dollars may become the biggest steal of free agency. Before John Wall got hurt and was intentionally sat out in Houston, he still averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists per game with an eFG% of 45.8 and a TS% of 50.3. Yes, the efficiency was not great, but he had no pieces around him after the James Harden trade and still was one of the more impactful offensive players in the league with his elite playmaking and knack for getting to the rim.
If you have seen the highlights of John Wall at the UCLA Rico Hines’ runs, he hasn’t lost a step and will be a pivotal piece for the Clippers assuming he stays healthy. That is another issue, as Wall has failed to play over 41 games (half of the season) since the 2016-2017 NBA season. He will fit in perfectly with the Clippers as the whole team has dealt with injuries and they all have a chip on their shoulder and something to prove.
In his last healthy season, Kawhi Leonard averaged 24.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game with an eFG% of 56.8, and a TS% of 62.2. One of the most efficient scorers in the league, Leonard is still a menace as a perimeter defender, often viewed as one of the league’s best two-way players. Paul George dealt with an injured elbow last season, but even as he was playing through it, George averaged 24.3 points and 5.7 assists per game with an eFG% of 49.3 and a TS% of 53.8, per Statmuse
Like John Wall in his last fully healthy season, Paul George was very inefficient but had to take very bad shots and create for himself on a team with not many playmakers because of the injuries. He was also playing through an injury so his efficiency should improve this season. As for the pivotal role players on the team, Robert Covington posted averages of 8.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game with an eFG% of 54.8 and a TS% of 57.2. One of the most efficient two-way players in the league, the Clippers’ extension with Covington is one of the more underrated signings of the offseason. Norman Powell is another guy the Clippers organization is high on as he averaged 19 points per game with a 3PT% of 41.9, an eFG% of 54.9, and a TS% of 60.3.
Powell was one of the best shooters in the league last season, and although he was ranked as one of the worse defenders in the league by many advanced stats outlets such as Bball Index, Powell’s defensive capabilities are still present and he is on a team that can help him dramatically with his weaknesses.
In fact, the Clippers ranked 11th in defensive rating (but were a top 4 defense when Paul George was on the court) last season and should be a top 5 defense this season with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both being healthy. The Clippers also ranked 20th in offensive rating, but obviously, that will improve when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George enter the equation this fall. They also were the 9th-best team in the NBA in TOV% at only a 13.1% mark, meaning they take care of the ball extremely well, even when they didn’t have Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on the court, per NBA.com
With Luke Kennard improving on both ends of the floor, but especially being the 3PT threat he is (44.9% from 3), Ivica Zubac continuing to be an efficient post player (10 points and 1 block per game with a TS% of 66), the Clippers don’t need Reggie Jackson to improve his efficiency (eFG% of 46 and TS% of 48.8, both of which some of the lowest marks in the NBA) to succeed.
In fact, John Wall’s arrival puts less pressure on Reggie Jackson to succeed and make good decisions down the stretch of games as I would be surprised if Jackson, and not Wall is out on the court at point guard with the game on the line. Either way, the Clippers have weapons everywhere and if they stay healthy, should be one of the 4 best teams in the Western Conference this season. Below is the Clippers roster and financial outlook for the 2022-2023 NBA Season.
Roster and Salary outlook for the 2022-2023 NBA Season
SG: Paul George, Salary: $42,492,568
SF: Kawhi Leonard, Salary: $42,492,492
SG: Norman Powell, Salary: $16758,621
SF/PF: Marcus Morris, Salary: $16,372, 093
SG: Luke Kennard, Salary: $14,415, 545
SF/PF: Robert Covington, Salary: $12,307,692
PG: Reggie Jackson, Salary: $11,215,260
SF/PF: Nicolas Batum, Salary: $10,843,350
C: Ivica Zubac, Salary: $10,123,457
PG: John Wall, Salary: $6,479,000
SG: Amir Coffey, Salary: $3,395,062
SG: Terance Mann, Salary: $1,930,681
SG/SF: Brandon Boston Jr., Salary: $1,563,518
PG: Jason Preston, Salary: $1,563,518
Exhibit 10 Contracts/Training Camp Invites: Salary not guaranteed, only if they make the roster
C: Moses Brown
SF: Jay Scrubb
SG: Xavier Moon
Two-Way contracts: Salary undisclosed
PF: Moussa Diabate
As you can see, this is not only one of the most talented rosters in the league, but one of the most expensive as well. The Clippers are $70,000,000 over the NBA Salary Cap, but Steve Balmer is so rich he will just pay the big fine. If we are grading the Clippers’ offseason, I give them an A as they brought in John Wall, drafted a talented young big in Moussa Diabate, and extended their key role players in Robert Covington, Nic Batum, and Ivica Zubac. Sure, it would have been an A+ if they parted ways with Marcus Morris’ contract as he was awful down the stretch for the Clippers last season, but they won’t need him to do much except play defense and shoot the occasional 3 this season. That is how stacked this roster is.
Roster Grade: A+
Arguably the league’s best and most versatile roster, the Clippers a filled with 3 and D wings and their two superstars are arguably the BEST two 3 and D wings in the NBA. They have Covington, Zubac, Mann, and Batum to help Leonard and George defensively, and they have two marksmen in Luke Kennard (44.9% from 3) and Norman Powell (41.9% from 3) on offense. They also now have a true point guard finally, in John Wall, who is still one of the best playmakers in the NBA, to get those 3PT shooters more open looks. Sure there is the injury concern, but if the multitude of pivotal pieces on this team, especially Leonard and George, stay healthy for the playoffs, the Clippers have one of the highest chances to be holding up their first NBA trophy. As of right now, I have them ranked as the 2nd best team in the Western Conference behind the Golden State Warriors.