NBA 2023-2024 Preview: Can the Los Angeles Clippers Stay Healthy?

Clippers NBA Preview 2023 2024

Who will follow in the Nuggets’ footsteps as NBA champions? Over the next month, our team dives deep into previews for all 30 NBA franchises. Today, we spotlight the Los Angeles Clippers.

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Season Review 2022/2023: The Same Old Story

Year after year, the story remains frustratingly similar. At the season’s onset, hope abounds. On paper, a squad boasting superstars like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, complemented by reliable workhorses like Ivica Zubac and Nicolas Batum, should be atop the league’s elite. As the season progresses, glimpses of this team’s true potential when fully assembled become evident. After a sidelined start to the season, Kawhi Leonard proves he remains one of the league’s preeminent players. Paul George keeps up his usual pace… until yet another injury sidelines him just 10 games shy of the playoffs.

Thus, Kawhi Leonard finds himself as the lone pillar for the Clippers in the postseason. They manage to square off 1-1 against the Suns in the first round. Then, in a twist of fate, the ‘Fun Guy’ Leonard suffers an injury himself. Enter Russell Westbrook, the offseason acquisition, now thrust into the role of the team’s singular leader. Despite the group’s commendable efforts, facing the likes of Kevin Durant and Devin Booker while being this decimated proves an insurmountable challenge.

Offseason Moves for the Los Angeles Clippers

Departures

Eric Gordon (traded to Suns); Jason Preston (became a free agent).

Extensions

Russell Westbrook (2-year extension); Mason Plumlee (1-year extension); Moussa Diabaté (Two-Way contract extended).

New Arrivals

Kenyon Martin Jr (acquired from Rockets); Joshua Primo (signed to a two-way contract); Kobe Brown (selected 30th overall in the 2023 draft); Jordan Miller (picked 48th overall in the 2023 draft).

Los Angeles Clippers’ Starting Five

Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris, Ivica Zubac

Bench Rotation

Point Guards

Bones Hyland.

Shooting Guards

Norman Powell; Brandon Boston Jr; Joshua Primo (on a two-way contract).

Small Forwards

Nicolas Batum; Kenyon Martin Jr; Amir Coffey; Jordan Miller (on a two-way contract).

Power Forwards

Robert Covington; Kobe Brown.

Centers

Mason Plumlee; Moussa Diabaté (on a two-way contract).

Strenghts and Weaknesses

Weaknesses: The Injury Bug Strikes Again

When fully healthy, this Clippers roster has the potential to be a powerhouse in the West. However, health remains a significant concern. Kawhi Leonard hasn’t played more than 60 games in a season since the 2016/17 campaign. The story is somewhat similar for Paul George. Without consistent health from their two stars, it’s hard to be overly optimistic about the Clippers’ prospects. Players like Norman Powell, who are essential to the team’s success, have not been immune to injuries either. While the squad is filled with dependable players, playoff battles are often decided by the stars.

Strengths: Continuity is Key

It’s worth noting that the Clippers had a relatively quiet offseason. Tyronn Lue will be leading almost the same group, ensuring there won’t be significant adjustments needed right out of the gate. Moreover, as the season kicks off, the team appears to be in good health, a luxury the Clippers haven’t enjoyed in a while. If this remains the case throughout the preseason, the Clippers are poised for a strong start. The NBA’s new rule against load management should also positively impact their early-season performance.

Player to Watch: Russell Westbrook

Could Russell Westbrook be the game-changing element for the Clippers? Westbrook’s recent seasons have been rocky, but since joining the Clippers, it seems he’s found his niche. No longer in pursuit of the limelight and operating as the third option, Westbrook appears to have embraced a role that might be a better fit than the hero status he’s often pursued. His short and relatively inexpensive contract also reflects his willingness to prioritize the team’s needs over his own. Still, Westbrook remains a potential game changer—a spark that could provide soul to a Clippers squad that seems to have missed that since the arrival of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. He may very well be the X-factor for the Clippers.

Season Prediction: 5th in the West

As things stand, it’s hard to view the Clippers as genuine contenders. In the Western Conference, they have yet to establish themselves as a dominant force despite the presence of superstars like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. However, as has always been the case with the Clippers, if this team stays healthy, they’re on par with the best in the league. They boast a balanced roster, led by three stars and supported by an array of talented role players. Persistent rumors of a potential James Harden trade could also significantly shift the dynamics for this team.

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