The 2022-23 NBA season finally commenced last week. The LA Clippers started decently and found a 2-1 record to begin their campaign. And although they found themselves on the winning side, the Clippers face early rotation concerns. Whether it be Kawhi Leonard’s strict minutes restriction or the lack of Ivica Zubac down the stretch, Ty Lue has his hands full to begin the season.
Clippers Face Early Rotation Concerns
Sixth Man Kawhi
The abundance of talent that the Clippers have on their roster is an embarrassment of riches. Many coaches would envy the opportunity to lead this squad. While Lue is certainly fit for the job, he is experiencing early growing pains.
The return of Leonard was always going to be handled with caution. The Clippers surprised many when they decided to have the two-time NBA champion come off the bench to start the season. It is not unusual for a team to be cautious when it comes to returning from injury. However, many did not anticipate this from Leonard. The forward has been starting games halfway through the second quarter in order to start in the second half and close the game. Some may criticize, but his decision may actually be the best for the team. A future Hall of Famer sacrificing a starting spot speaks enough about his leadership and unselfishness for his team. It may not be ideal for fans and Lue’s rotation, but Leonard is now in a spot where he can gradually strengthen his ACL, bring a spark off the bench, and be available in crunch time.
Norman Powell’s struggles
With Leonard coming off the bench, that paves the way for Norman Powell to start games for the team. However, his start to the season has not been ideal. Powell is averaging seven points per game on 26-14-67 shooting splits. The situation with Powell was already interesting to start. During the team’s Media Day, he stated his desire to start and be an All-Star. One could argue that his ambition is more individually motivated than team-motivated. Powell has not shown a selfish nature since he became a Clipper last season. Though his performance is a concern, it may just be a cause of finding his footing with the fully loaded roster.
After averaging nearly 20 points a game last season, Powell now has to take a backseat behind Leonard, Paul George, and sometimes John Wall. Powell is actively trying to find his rhythm amid his unproductivity. Three games are too soon to make drastic changes. Especially considering that he will likely move to the bench regardless of when Leonard returns. With Leonard load-managing games, Powell will have plenty of opportunities to start during the season. He is too good of a player to struggle this long, and I don’t expect it to continue much longer.
Should John Wall Start?
On a more positive side to the Clippers’ start, Wall has been playing great in bringing a spark off the bench. He has looked as good as advertised in his downhill attack. His pace of pushing and rim pressure gives the Clippers a different dimension that the starting unit lacks. His mid-range jumper has been solid but his three-point shot could use some improvement.
With Reggie Jackson fighting through a groin injury, it may be best for him to either rest some games or let Wall start to bring force to begin games. In the second half of their loss to Phoenix, Wall started alongside George, Leonard, Marcus Morris, and Zubac. Wall may also be facing a minutes restriction similar to Leonard. So it would make sense to not strain him too much. But with Jackson struggling, look for Lue to tinker around the tenth game if this trend continues to develop.
It’s only three games in, which is an egregiously small sample size. Usually, Lue will allow trends to develop before he makes rotation decisions. Will Powell continue to struggle by the tenth game? Maybe, but Leonard may be back in the saddle by that time. If Jackson continues to show the effects of his injury, we could see him take time off to recover. There are many moving parts with this team. And it’s even more difficult considering how many players deserve playing time.
The Clippers have plenty of time to figure things out while they get games under their belt. It won’t come overnight, but with each game comes a new opportunity to grow and develop processes. There will be injuries and guys in and out of the lineup. Though it is not ideal for continuity, it opens up opportunities for guys who can contribute. The team just needs to play together. And after 25 games, we may not even discuss the issues brought upon the third game of the season.