This 2022-2023 NBA Season is the best chance for the Los Angeles Clippers to give them its first NBA Championship in franchise history. Clippers fans are hoping after a year of recovery for small forward Kawhi Leonard after suffering a partially torn ACL in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs is enough to get him ready for the season. There is also a lot of hype for shooting guard/small forward Paul George, head coach Ty Lue, and an incredibly deep and talented roster. After some serious moves in the off-season and some development, the Clippers are hoping the curse that started in the Lob City era is over to get the NBA title they have craved.
Los Angeles Clippers 2022-2023 Season Preview
2021-22 Season Recap
The Clippers didn’t feel like they weren’t going to be a serious contender for an NBA title, with Leonard recovering from a torn ACL last season. They were not prepared to throw their season away as they wanted to test to see which players would step up without Leonard. It didn’t help that George only played 31 games this past season due to a torn UCL.
Most of last season was to see how well coach Lue could create a playoff-contending team with a talented and deep roster full of role players. The Clippers had some great moments during the beginning of last season with a healthy Paul George. The Clippers were set to be a #5 seed contender for the Western Conference Playoffs before the injury to George.
Just a little under two months until the 2022 NBA Trade Deadline, Clippers’ President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank made a big trade for shooting guard Norman Powell and power forward Robert Covington by trading point guard Eric Bledsoe, forward Justise Winslow, rookie forward Keon Johnson, and a 2025 second-round pick (via Detroit Pistons). This move set up two key role spots for Powell and Covington to be contributors on both ends of the court. While Powell only played in five games due to injury, Covington became a key player and a fan favorite of the Clippers.
Was Last Year a Redshirt Season?
The Clippers had seven players this past season that averaged more than 10 points per game while playing for more than 22 games. Los Angeles finished the season with the 11th-ranked scoring defense in the NBA with an average of 108.4 points. Coach Lue accomplished this without his best defender, Kawhi Leonard, for the entire season and George for most of the season.
The Clippers finished the 2021-2022 NBA season with an overall record of 42-40. They lost the two play-in games of the NBA Playoffs to the Minnesota Timberwolves and the New Orleans Pelicans as they lost consistency due to injuries going in and out of the lineup. The Clippers had a developmental season without their two stars for most of the season. While it may seem like the 2021-2022 season was disappointing, there were great moments in the season. Some of those moments include beating the Los Angeles Lakers in all four games, Covington scoring 43 points and making 11 three-pointers in the 153-119 over the Milwaukee Bucks on April 1, and rookie Brandon Boston Jr. having a great performance in the 114-111 win over the Boston Celtics.
With the Clippers to make a serious NBA Championship title run this season, Frank Lawrence and senior team advisor Jerry West looked to make some serious moves in the off-season. The Clippers were able to re-sign two of the three key free agents going into the off-season. On July 6, the team was able to re-sign power forward/center Nicolas Batum and guard/forward Amir Coffey. Batum has been a fan favorite among Clipper fans and a highly efficient defender and corner three-point shooter. Coffey has been a reliable night-in and night-out role player who has been developing well since signing with the Clippers as an undrafted rookie in 2019.
The Clippers and Covington agreed to a two-year, $24 million contract extension on May 5. This ensured the future with Covington and the Clippers as a present and future big man for a playoff contender.
Win Some, Lose Some
The Clippers’ biggest move in the off-season was signing five-time NBA All-star point guard John Wall to a two-year, $13.2 million contract. He signed with the Clippers to compete for a championship after a few disastrous seasons with the Houston Rockets. Wall joined the Clippers because he wanted to have an impact and relationship with teammates and develop himself back to the All-NBA level. Wall was the best chance for Leonard to play with an all-around point guard since arriving with the Clippers in the off-season of 2019.
Los Angeles suffered a big loss during the off-season as they could not re-sign center Isaiah Hartenstein, who signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the New York Knicks. The contract that the Knicks was offering was well above the money the Clippers were offering. The Clippers didn’t just lose a backup (and starter quality) center; they lost one of the top defenders from last year. In his one season with the Clippers, Hartenstein averaged 8.3 points per game, 4.9 rebounds per game, and 1.1 blocks per game in 68 games. The Clippers signed some reliable players that could take over as backup center when the season begins. Still, none of them will bring an immediate consistency that Hartenstein brought, surprisingly.
Clippers Lineup Options
The Los Angeles Clippers come into this 2022-2023 NBA season with one of the most talented and loaded rosters in the entire NBA. They will have 12 players going into the season who can play night-in and night-out. They have availability for younger players like Boston Jr. and Jason Preston to step into an 82-game role player.
The roster comprises several dynamic scorers, highly efficient wing players, tough defenders, and young players who have taken over the game and accounted for key wins. Most of all, the Clippers have Kawhi Leonard and Paul George at 100% health at the start of the season. There is clear, great chemistry between the two stars and the rest of the team. This is a roster where 13 players, including Boston, know their potential. Head coach Ty Lue has tested and challenged his team to play highly efficient basketball with and without his two stars on the court.
Now that the role players are tested and the star players are healthy, the Clippers are in their best position for their first-ever NBA title. They will go through a tough and loaded Western Conference through the regular season and in the playoffs.
There will be a lot of speculation on whether John Wall or Reggie Jackson will be the starting point guard. The starter will have a key role with Leonard and George, while the other player will lead a talented bench. PG and Kawhi are the two unquestioned starters at the shooting guard and small forward, with dynamic scorer Norman Powell and the young, explosive Terance Mann following up behind them. There will not be a heated battle for the power forward again this season as Marcus Morris and Nicolas Batum will work together to swap as starters as they did for the past two seasons.
Covington will be a key dynamic player on both ends of the court as his youth, scoring potential, and defensive efficiency will be key for the team. He could play as the starting power forward, a reliable bench big, or play center in small-ball lineups. Ivica Zubac looks to prove himself as a top-tier center as he is an efficient scorer and defender. If he wants to be a top-ten center, he needs to improve on rebounding and defending against elite centers.
Luke Kennard is not the odd man out for the Clippers as he remains one of the most tenacious three-point shooters in the NBA. Amir Coffey has shown to be a player that can take care of his role on the offensive and defensive end of the court. Young players like Boston Jr. and Preston have a chance to add themselves to a consistent playing lineup with their offensive efficiency.
It is not impossible to believe that the Clippers could win 55 games this 2022-2023 NBA season. The key for the team is not to overuse Leonard and George through the regular season and instead rely on the role players like Powell, Jackson, Mann, Morris, Covington, Wall, Kennard, etc. The team has the roster and potential to eclipse the 57-win season set in the 2013-2014 NBA season. This could be a potential break record, but health is the ultimate key to success this season (and for all teams). Injuries have been the biggest factor in blown leads in playoffs and early playoff exits since the Lob City era. Now, more than ever, Leonard and George have to remain healthy this season, but mainly through the playoffs.
Los Angeles’ main goal is to be the last standing in the 2023 NBA Playoffs for the first title in franchise history. This goal has been in the minds of the franchise, the players, coaches, executives, and fans since Leonard and George arrived in the 2019 off-season. It will be a long season, but the Clippers have the patience and hunger to win.