It’s recovery day and Basketball United States completes its traditional presentation, team by team, of the new NBA season. This has, like every year, taken the form of a countdown, from the worst record in the league to our favorite for the title of champion.
And these are the Mowers which allow us to conclude, today, this long chapter of glimpsessince it is indeed them who have in the eyes of the editorial staff the most likely to succeed the Warriors, next June. For what would simply be the first title in their history!
It must be said that, on paper, the Californian franchise seems sufficiently armed to go all the way. All the more so given his collective stability and the return from injury of Kawhi Leonard. At 31, “The Klaw” is now ready to play again and, above all, to return to the NBA references in his position. Moreover, alongside Paul Georgeit will take that to bring Los Angeles back to the playoffs, which remains on a cruel elimination during the “play-in” (with Paul George in solitary confinement after catching Covid-19…) last spring.
Much too physically weakened in 2021/22, the squad of Tyronn Lue now hopes that his infirmary will not be as full as in the past. Even if she can reassure herself somewhat by telling herself that she certainly has the most beautiful bench depth in the league and that she can therefore see it coming, in the event of a glitch.
But that’s obviously not the desired scenario in California, as the Clippers’ title window is shrinking from season to season and, three years after the Leonard/George duo was formed, and two years before their move to Inglewood, there is no have never been so close to realizing their dream…
— Arrivals : John Wall (Rockets), Moses Brown (Horsemen), Moussa Diabaté (Draft)
— Departures Isaiah Hartenstein (Knicks), Rodney Hood, Jay Scrubb (Magic), Xavier Moon
PLAYER TO WATCH: KAWHI LEONARD
A year and four months after his last official game and his cruciate ligament injury, Kawhi Leonard is fully recovered and will finally play again with the Clippers. A weight reinforcement for the Californian franchise, which automatically regains its status as a candidate for the title, after reaching the conference final with “The Klaw” in 2021, but also after missing the playoffs without him in 2022.
Although it may not be expected that he will be immediately back to his best level, we can nevertheless imagine that the former Spurs and Raptors player will boost his entire team by his mere presence, in addition to raising the collective ceiling of Los Angeles. Both offensively and defensively, as he was nothing less than the best two-way player in the league before he suffered a serious injury.
The (very) good news for Kawhi Leonard is that the good depth of the Clippers bench at 3/4 positions will allow him to find his feelings gently, without forcing and without risking too much pulling on the rope unnecessarily. Given his status as five-time All-Star and double MVP of the Finals, it is in the playoffs that the double NBA champion will be expected, in order to lead Tyronn Lue’s men to the first title in their history…
Average age: 29 years old
Payroll: $193.7 million (2nd)
THE IDEAL SCENARIO
The strength of very great players is also to manage to come back from a very long absence (almost) as if nothing had happened and Kawhi Leonard is definitely made of this wood. In his style, the double MVP of the Finals is (re) grafted to the rotation of Tyronn Lue as if he had never left and, more boss than ever, he guides the Clippers towards the heights of the West. The place that was simply promised to them at the start of the season.
It must be said that behind “The Klaw”, Paul George is also back at 100% and performing very well on either side of the floor, fully assuming his role as lieutenant.
Thus, the Leonard/George duo (again) makes miseries to the opposing defenders and attackers while, around him, the soldiers of maestro Tyronn Lue play their role wonderfully. From Reggie Jackson to Ivica Zubac, via Marcus Morris, Norman Powell, Robert Covington, Nicolas Batum, Luke Kennard or Terance Mann, it is a particularly dense, complete and balanced group that prances at the head of its conference.
Regarding the few uncertainties that could surround these Clippers, note that John Wall, who is asked to play to his strengths and while sober, finds a good level, while injuries generally spare the workforce. angeleno. Inevitably, at the time of the playoffs, we begin to dream big in the Californian ranks and, for once, it is not for the Lakers that Los Angeles organizes a parade…
Coming back from a cruciate ligament injury is never easy, even for a player like Kawhi Leonard, who will need at least a season of transition before he hopes to get back to his best. A setback which the Clippers would have done well, who can certainly count on a good Paul George, but who sail on sight. This group still lacks a vocal leader and a real collective alchemy.
Fortunately, despite a few injuries, Tyronn Lue can rely on a group of efficient, solid and complementary soldiers to hold their own in the face of difficulties: Reggie Jackson, Ivica Zubac, Marcus Morris, Norman Powell, Robert Covington, Nicolas Batum, Luke Kennard and Terance Mann. The problem is that there are not enough minutes for all these beautiful people and some end up getting frustrated, like Jackson, Morris or Powell. Enough to make the locker room explosive, with no one to reframe the group towards its collective priorities.
Isaiah Hartenstein not having been replaced, Ivica Zubac also feels very alone in the racket, Moses Brown and Moussa Diabate not being permanently available with their “two-way contracts” and anyway not being (yet ) reliable solutions against the best pivots in the league.
Therefore, if the Los Angeles franchise still reaches the playoffs directly thanks to its plethoric workforce, its collective limits displayed throughout the campaign reappear and are paid cash against a sharper opponent. The exit from the road is therefore premature and we especially come to wonder if this team will be able, with its limited room for maneuver, to hold its rank one day in the major events…