We are a bit away from LA Clippers‘ training camp but that does not mean we cannot discuss questions heading into it. Coming into the 2022-23 season, the Clippers have a loaded roster and are potential favorites to win the title. But with the abundance of depth, comes tough choices on what to do with rotations. Not to mention how stars Kawhi Leonard (and somewhat Paul George) will look coming off injuries. In order to achieve the team’s ultimate goal, steps cannot be skipped. And the first step begins in training camp.
Clippers’ Training Camp Questions
Who Will Start at Point Guard?
The acquisition of five-time All-Star John Wall was a move that seems to fill the void that the Clippers have been missing. He already appears to have bought into the culture that the Clippers built. Wall brings a downhill and transition attack and above-average playmaking ability that will add to the team’s offensive repertoire. However, the biggest question with Wall in his career has always been his jump shot.
Reggie Jackson, the primary starting point guard for the Clippers last season, already has familiarity with the stars and offense. Naturally, Jackson is also a fit with the starters as he is one of the best catch-and-shoot guards in the league.
So who should start? Wall adds an additional playmaking threat and one that can improve the team’s pace. Contrarily, Jackson is no zero as a playmaker. He can operate and attack with pick and rolls and in isolation. The answer could come down to two things: shooting and defending. If Wall can show some semblance of his former All-Defensive team self, he could have an edge. And if he can knock down shots, it will be hard for head coach Ty Lue to bench him.
I believe that Wall will start when the season begins, but do not be surprised if Lue reinserts Jackson back into that slot if the team’s play is not up to par.
What Will the Center Rotation Look Like?
A month into the offseason and the Clippers still do not have a backup center. Or do they? The team announced that they had signed center Moses Brown to a training camp deal earlier this month. In addition, they drafted Moussa Diabate out of Michigan in June’s draft.
Brown is a lanky 7″2 product out of UCLA who has bounced around the league a bit. He has the potential to be a serviceable center in the league with his size and length. Getting him to be a full force night in and night out may be the key to unlocking his potential. What other culture than Lue’s with the Clippers to meet that potential? Brown will not be asked to do much besides defend, roll hard, and play within the offense. Lue gave Isaiah Hartenstein the green light to be himself with the team’s backups last season. Which led to arguably the best season of his career. While Brown is not the creator that Hartenstein is, getting the full trust and motivation from Lue could be what he needs to earn the backup spot if the team retains him past camp.
Though Diabate showed promising signs in the summer league, he may not be ready for NBA basketball yet. His motor, versatility on defense, and surprising post ability are signs to be optimistic. But he needs to add more weight before he can truly be the team’s backup. Look for Diabate to spend most of his time in the G-League, as the team anticipates since they signed him to a two-way contract.
How Does Kawhi Leonard Look?
Earlier this month, Lawrence Frank, Clippers’ President of Basketball Operations, confirmed that Leonard has not done 5-on-5 yet. This is not particularly concerning as camp isn’t until September and there really isn’t anything to do 5-on-5 for right now besides open runs or pro-ams.
However, Clipper fans are likely to be chomping at the bit to see how Leonard looks. Earlier indications during the 2021-22 season gave fans a positive insight as multiple sources claimed that he looks great. Frank even described his rehab process as ‘maniacal’. A true testament to how hard he is working to get back on the court.
Leonard’s trainer, Clint Parks, hopped on the Courtside podcast and mentioned why he thinks this will be the best version we will see of the two-time champion: “He’s completely healthy, he’s been off, he’s refreshed. He’s in great shape physically. Just how sharp he looks… man, this is crazy.” Parks and Leonard had a training session in June and have seen Leonard up close. Safe to assume that his eye is as good as any in terms of the star’s health.
While there isn’t much confirmation as to if he is cleared or when he will be, Clipper Nation should be optimistic that Leonard can start the season and be ready for the team’s title run on opening night.