What the Kawhi Leonard Injury Means for the LA Clippers

Clippers, Kawhi Leonard

Los Angeles Clippers superstarĀ Kawhi Leonard suffers another injury. A partially torn ACL, to be exact, and will now be out for the foreseeable future, as announced by a Clippers press release earlier today.

 

The good news here is that Leonard’s injury is a partial tear and not a full rupture. However, the injury recovery is still going to be long and arduous. Leonard and the Clippers organization are not exactly risk takers so to be on the safe side, let’s assume he will be out for one calendar year. That means is going to miss the entirety of the 2022 NBA regular season. Oh, and did I mention he is a free agent later this summer?

What the Kawhi Leonard injury news means for the Los Angeles Clippers

Kawhi Leonard’s Free Agency

Before we can examine how the Clippers 2022 season looks, we have to start in the offseason. The odds of Kawhi leaving his hometown of Los Angeles are slim to none. Combine that with the fact the Los Angeles Lakers have no cap space and were already rejected by Leonard, this means the Klaw is almost a certainty to stay with his current employer. If his main goal was to win titles he wouldn’t have chosen the Clippers initially, not when there were better alternatives in 2019 (both in and out of California).

What is not for certain is the terms of Leonard’s future contract. He has a player option he could opt into (I doubt it) but it is only for $36 million and he could get more by simply opting out and signing a one plus one. Normally I would say that the Klaw signs a one plus one to have as much power and flexibility as possible. Still, with his current injury predicament (and long injury history), it makes sense to get the safety of a 5-year max. Especially when it is unlikely he will ever want to leave southern California again. This outcome is probably the ideal one for both the player and the team. This would be a similar situation to Anthony Davis‘ 5-year extension with the Lakers last season.

The Clippers’ 2022 NBA season

The Clippers have quite a few roster decisions to make this summer outside of their injured superstar. It’s hard to predict roster shakeups so for the sake of simplicity, let’s assume the Clippers keep their current core with the only difference beingĀ Reggie Jackson departing due to earning a huge payday with his very impressive playoff run. That means the Clippers would trot out a starting lineup of

Patrick Beverley

Paul George

Terance Mann

Marcus Morris

Ivica Zubac

This is a solid lineup and if these players are healthy they will compete for the playoffs. Probably falling in the 6-10 range which means they would likely make the play-in tournament. This is far from ideal for Clippers fans but it is the reality. To make matters worse, due to the George trade in 2019, the Clippers do not own their first-round pick in 2022. So if more injuries strike, they could be looking at a lost lottery pick.

Even the best-case scenario for the Clippers 2022 season would be George and co holding down the fort and keeping a top 5 seed while Leonard returns at the end of the season and they make a push for that elusive NBA championship (or even NBA finals appearance). I think this is very unlikely due to the nature of the injury and the roster construction. To say this injury is devastating is an understatement. This partially torn ACL ended not one but two seasons in the Clippers’ short title window.

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images


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