Preview of the NBA 2021-22 season about the Los Angeles Clippers. Data, results from the previous season, a look at their squad and future free agents, the objectives of the course, the player to watch and a forecast on the franchise.
Los Angeles Clippers
- Movements From the market: Eric Bledsoe trade, Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum renewals (all moves here).
- Backcourt: Reggie Jackson, Eric Bledsoe, Jason Preston, Luke Kennard, Keon Johnson, Justise Winslow, Brandon Boston Jr., Amir Coffey (two-way), Jay Scrubb (two-way).
- Frontcourt: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Terance Mann, Marcus Morris, Nicolas Batum, Moses Wright (not guaranteed), George King (not guaranteed), Serge Ibaka, Ivica Zubac, Isaiah Hartenstein (not guaranteed), Harry Giles (not guaranteed)
This is how they face the season
Without Kawhi, this is how they approach it. The absence of the forward is undoubtedly the most important novelty for the Angelenos, who will have to survive the loss of their great star and fight for a playoffs in which they may be able to count on him again. Drawing on the background, a season full of rumors about the possible return of Leonard can be sensed, of whether it could arrive for such a date, that if there is more or less left for him to return and a long etcetera to which they will have to make the least possible case for focus on winning matches.
The past playoffs should serve as motivation, because, despite Kawhi’s loss in the middle of the tie against the Jazz, the Clippers knew how to respond and managed to qualify for the first Conference Finals in their history. It is obvious that the context is not the same, but of course both in the tie against Utah and in Phoenix there were elements that may make the Angelenos think that a good season without their best player is possible.
For this, it seems essential that Paul George acts as a leader, something he has already done in other stages of his career. The times in Indiana, in which he led the Pacers to face the Big 3 Heat, seem a bit distant, but in his time in OKC he was also the great reference of his own and even finished third in the vote for the MVP. Since his arrival in Los Angeles he has taken a discreet step aside to become a second sword, and although he ended up very marked after his first year, especially for his playoffs, the season invites something more optimism.
The forward notably improved his performances both in the regular season and in the playoffs, and knew how to take the necessary step forward once the team lost Kawhi. In playoff games without Leonard by his side, George averaged 29.6 points, 11 rebounds and 5.4 assists, taking his team much further than one might initially expect. Can Paul be that player again for months to come? Many of the team’s options pass through there.
However, the former Thunder was not the only one to excite in the past playoffs. Terance Mann, a player who had shown virtues but had a very secondary role, found himself overnight as a starter and responded with 39 points in the game that earned him the pass to the Western Finals, pointing out ways and inviting to optimism regarding its progression. Now, in what will be his third season in the league, he finds the perfect context to finish exploding, as he will presumably be a starter in a team that needs to bring out his talent more often.
Nicolas Batum and Reggie Jackson were other great news for Californians in the 19-20 season, with a sort of absolutely unimaginable resurrection, especially in the case of the Frenchman. After several seasons in Charlotte earning a millionaire and performing rather poorly, the forward again stood out in the Clippers as a multipurpose player and specialist in covering almost any need of the quintet. The same for the point guard, who had a spectacular postseason, with truly stellar games that earned him a considerable renovation, and he aims to be one of the key figures in this new season.
But not only on the track there were claims. Tyronn Lue, who for years had been a meme for having a single play called ‘give it to LeBron’, proved to be much more than an ego manager and pushed the team with continuous adjustments and variations that made them take two series in which they had started 2-0 down. Despite the doubts that he could leave in other stages of his career, right now he does seem like a more than valid technician to command these Clippers in a complicated year, in which he will have to find a way to make the absence of Leonard notice it. less possible to continue being part of the noble zone of the West.
As for news, the main one is that of Eric Bledsoe, who does not arrive exactly at a peak moment in terms of reputation. His bad playoffs with the Bucks in 2020 and how well his transfer to Holiday has done the Milwaukee men makes him be held in very low esteem, but the truth is that he is a point guard with many resources, both offensive and defensive players, who can make their incorporation a good move. It is true that he is also a player with obvious shortcomings, especially at the decision-making level, but if Lue is able to hide them and enhance his virtues, he will have a guaranteed player. Let’s not forget that we are talking about a man who was part of the Best Defensive Quintet in 2019 and the second quintet in 2020.
And although it is not technically an addition, it is for practical purposes the return of Serge Ibaka, who after a season plagued by inconveniences due to injuries hopes to be able to return to his best version. The Hispanic-Congolese has more than proven himself to be a versatile player with a lot of contribution on both sides of the court, and his return would undoubtedly be positive for a team that last year had to survive on the basis of small-ball and the one DeAndre Ayton did a lot of damage to in the Western Finals.
So even with the fateful news of Kawhi’s injury, there’s reason to think these Clippers can put up a fight. Not as much as they would find him, of course, but enough to keep him in postseason spots while waiting to see if his star returns or not. However, it is the absences that weigh, and taking what has been seen in a handful of games in the last playoffs as a reference is somewhat risky. It will therefore be necessary to see if this ends up being a transitional season or if they continue to be able to fight for noble objectives.
The player to watch
Paul George will once again be the man of reference for a franchise and the one in charge of taking it as far as possible. More ball in his hands, more shots and more responsibility for a player who has shown himself to be a leader in other stages of his career but who came to the Clippers knowing that he would be No. 2 behind Kawhi. How capable are you to take the step?
Of course, its previous stages support it, but this time it will have the difficulty of knowing a kind of patch rather than the decided bet of the franchise. Leonard’s shadow is long, but if the forward manages to show his most stellar version, he will give confidence to his teammates to believe that life without him is possible. If you manage to establish that idea in the squad, there are wickers for the team to continue to have noble objectives to aspire to.
NBA preview 2021-22 Los Angeles Clippers, prediction
Elio Martínez, director of Trends Wide, leaves a personal and subjective forecast on what he thinks each franchise will do during the season in the NBA 2021-22 preview.
Another big bearish bet. If with Kawhi they have not managed to finish first in the West, less will they do it now. But I see them even lower this year since I consider that without Leonard they are more like teams like Portland or Dallas and therefore I think they will haunt those positions. In my forecast I place them eighth, a risky projection that also depends largely on whether their best player returns throughout the course or not, which I do not think will happen.
Previous team analyzed: Atlanta Hawks. Next team: New York Knicks.
(Cover photo: Mike Ehrman / Getty Images)