LA Clippers Preseason Checklist

The wait is almost over as LA Clippers preseason basketball tips off in under a week. Fans will get a taste of their team as well as they gather for Media Day on Monday. A returning Kawhi Leonard and the addition of John Wall created plenty of hype. Both players missed the entirety of the 2021-22 season. And with their returns, Clipper fans have been getting antsy to see how the new squad will work out. In recent media availability, President of Basketball Operations, Lawrence Frank, praised the team’s work ethic over the offseason. Thus, continuing the Clipper hype train. I note some key things to look out for preseason tipping off next Friday.

LA Clippers Preseason Checklist

Starting Lineup

Obviously, the starters are a work in progress, but it will still be interesting to see the variations that head coach Ty Lue puts out on the floor. The starting lineup of Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Leonard, Marcus Morris, and Ivica Zubac from the 2020-21 season appears to be back in camp. I am curious to see if Lue puts the lineup out there to give Leonard some continuity as he returns from his ACL injury. Given their familiarity, I am not optimistic that we will see heavy minutes from this lineup.

However, I anticipate that Lue will place Wall instead of Jackson to see how he fares with the group. The spacing from the two to four positions and a rim-rolling big should compliment his game well. But for Leonard and George, the spacing will be a crucial component to watch. More on that in a moment.

There is a good chance that Nicolas Batum or Robert Covington will start in lieu of Morris. They provide the floor spacing that Morris does, but add defensive versatility and act as elite glue guys to compliment the stars. No matter what Lue decides to do, there will be plenty of viable options to start.

Defensive Continuity

A great habit to build in training camp and preseason is being able to play on a string on the defensive end. Wall and Leonard are coming back from not playing a full season. Obviously, no one will be going all out in the preseason. But I am interested to see how those two look alongside the other wings on the Clippers’ roster. A positive in retaining the majority of the roster is that the team understands the defensive schemes, system, and lingo. Wall and backup center Moses Brown may take some adjusting but that is normal with newcomers.¬†Brown can provide shot blocking to the second unit if he is active enough.

Rotations

Additionally, the second unit will likely consist of Jackson or Wall, Norman Powell, Morris, Batum, Covington, Luke Kennard, and Terance Mann. Luckily, in the preseason the rotation does not matter as much. But there will be an odd man out. Powell’s offense seems too good to keep from playing, but unfortunately, it leaves a logjam in the frontcourt. Lue will likely experiment with every member of the roster to find the best combination. The good thing about the frontcourt logjam is that there are plenty of defensive-minded, 3-and-D players. Batum and Covington are two of the best in the game at that. And Mann has shown growth in his game every season. Look for Lue to use different combinations every game in the preseason, and maybe during the regular season.

Leonard and Wall

After missing the entirety of last season, 2022-23 looks to be a revenge tour for Leonard and Wall. For Wall, he has looked fresh in workout and pickup videos that have surfaced online. In recent Rico Hines runs, he was seen hitting catch and shoot and off-the-dribble jumpers. George also noted at a recent fan event that “he’s shooting it the best I’ve ever seen him shoot it.” Everything sounds good for now, but the games will show if his jumper will translate from his off-season work. Additionally, his defense will be a key factor in playing time as he has missed significant time some burst due to his injuries. So it will be interesting to see what he looks like on that end while surrounded by the endless wings on the Clippers.

As for Leonard, Frank recently stated that he is cleared for 5-on-5 and wants to do “everything”. The team will be cautious with him but from what we are hearing from the other players, Leonard appears to be good to go. In a recent hype video, players noted Leonard looking in “mid-season form”. He also appears to have bulked up his lower body. This either could be to protect his lower extremities to avoid additional injury or a likelihood that he will play more power forward this season. His offensive game may not require as much athleticism as he uses his feel for the game and strength to get to his spots. But I am curious to see how he will look on the defensive end after that ACL injury. Either way, fans have been chomping at the bit to see their franchise star play for over a year. And they won’t have to wait much longer with the return of the LA Clippers preseason.