The Clippers’ title hopes are dead on arrival with Kawhi Leonard likely to miss the season as he recovers from a torn ACL. Los Angeles will have to wait for next year for another shot at the Finals, but franchise is still all-in on the present with a veteran roster locked in. Paul George assumes the role of leading man this season, and he’ll have Reggie Jackson, Nic Batum, and Marcus Morris next to him as quality veteran starters. Steve Ballmer’s dream of winning a championship in LA isn’t happening without Kawhi, but the Clippers should still feel good about this core once they get their franchise player back.
Paul George carries over his playoff performance and is able to be an all-NBA level alpha for the entire of the regular season, while Reggie Jackson maintains his postseason performance in a secondary role. Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, and another young player (perhaps Brandon Boston Jr.?) pop for the Clippers. Kawhi Leonard is able to return before the end of the regular season; he makes this team a squad no one wants to face during the playoffs.
The offense stagnates a bit without Leonard there to command extra attention, and a historic 3-point shooting team from a year ago comes closer to league average. The team’s depth gets stretched with three roster spots committed to rookies and one more to Leonard, which puts too much strain on the over-30 group. That leaves the Clippers fighting for their postseason lives in the play-in.
The Clippers maintain a top-10 offense and defense, though closer to ten than the top of the league. Their offense spreads opposing teams out with their “drive, kick, swing” philosophy, leading to a bounceback season for Eric Bledsoe and another All-Star campaign for Paul George. The Clippers have some struggles defensively against scoring centers and teams who put pressure on the paint, but are mostly solid on that end. Terance Mann takes another leap and is in Most Improved/Sixth Man consideration.
Terance Mann was the most electrifying player on the Clippers last year — seeing how he fares in an expanded role is the most exciting part of this season. Even though he had a massive impact on the team a year ago, especially in the postseason, he has so much room to grow as a facilitator, a scorer, and a defender. The energy he plays with will be a bright spot throughout the season for the Clippers. A close second is the progression of Brandon Boston Jr., the rare teenager who already looks the part of an NBA player.
Brandon Boston Jr.