WHAT WENT WRONG
It was somewhat of a lost season from the beginning, as a team initially built to compete for championships knew from day one that their best player, future Hall-of-Famer Kawhi Leonard, would be out for the year recovering from the ton ACL that he suffered in last year’s playoffs. As the year progressed, the casualties began to mount; Leonard and Jason Preston missed the entire season, while Paul George (51/82 games missed), Nicolas Batum (23/82 games missed), and midseason acquisition Norman Powell (23/28 games missed) all were sidelined for a significant time.
Veterans like Eric Bledsoe, Rodney Hood, and Serge Ibaka were largely unproductive and were eventually sent packing. There was some pressure to maintain a championship level roster in anticipation for next year, however, which meant that young assets like Keon Johnson and Justise Winslow had to be sacrificed to bring in veterans like Powell and Robert Covington.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
While the Clippers fell short in the play-in tournament and ultimately missed the playoffs, it was a small miracle that they finished above .500 at 42-40 given all of the injuries they endured. Ty Lue did a masterful coaching job utilizing the pieces that he had to work with to take advantage of various matchups. Against certain teams, the Clippers ability to go small to maximize the offensive output without sacrificing much in the way of defending and rebounding became a huge advantage.
The injuries did provide opportunities for young players such as Brandon Boston Jr., Amir Coffey, and Isaiah Hartenstein to get minutes that normally would have gone to veterans as the team geared for a playoff run. The development of a young bench that can at least be semi-productive will help the team manage the minutes of oft-injured players like George and Leonard going forward.
The Clippers are built around playmaking wings; this masks the deficiencies of a guard like Reggie Jackson, who has a score-first mentality, and maximizes his strengths. It isn’t vital for them to have a traditional point guard in the rotation. There were occasions where a lack of size really hurt them, although Hartenstein proved to be an excellent find. Unfortunately he is an unrestricted free agent and will likely get a bigger deal on the open market than the Clippers are able to match.
|NAME||2022-23 SALARY||FUTURE OBLIGATION?|
|George, Paul||$42.5m||2023-24 ($45.6m), PO 2024-25 ($48.8m)|
|Leonard, Kawhi||$42.5m||2023-24 ($45.6m), PO 2024-25 ($48.8m)|
|Powell, Norman||$16.8m||2023-24 ($18.0), 2024-25 ($19.2m), 2025-26 ($20.5m)|
|Morris, Marcus||$16.4m||2023-24 ($17.1m)|
|Kennard, Luke||$14.4m||2023-24 ($15.4m), TO 2024-25 ($15.4m)|
|Covington, Robert||$12.0m||2023-24 ($12.0m)|
|Mann, Terance||$1.9m||2023-24 ($10.6m), 2024-25 ($11.4m)|
|Boston BJ||$1.6m||2023-24 ($1.8m if not waived by 6/30/23)|
|Preston, Jason||$1.6m||2023-24 ($1.8m if not waived by 6/30/23)|
|Zubac, Ivica||$7.5m||Team Option|
|Batum, Nicolas||$3.3m||Player Option|
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:
|Coffey, Amir||25||6’7”||210||69g 22.7mpg 9.0ppg 2.9rpg 1.8apg 54.2% / 37.8% / 86.3%|
|Moon, Xavier||27||6’2”||165||10g 13.7mpg 5.8ppg 1.4rpg 2.4apg 54.1% / 35.7% / 60.0%|
|Scrubb, Jay||22||6’5”||220||18g 6.7mpg 2.7ppg 0.9rpg 0.4apg 48.0% / 28.6% / 70.0%|
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:
|Hartenstein, Isaiah||24||7’0”||250||68g 17.9mpg 8.3ppg 4.9rpg 2.4apg 64.0% / 46.7% / 68.9%|
|Hood, Rodney||30||6’8”||208||13g 9.8mpg 2.6ppg 0.8rpg 0.6apg 40.0% / 54.5% / 80.0%|
|Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception||$6.3m|
|Trade Exception||$8.3m||07/18/22||from 07/18/21 trade w/MEM|
|Trade Exception||$9/.7m||02/10/23||from 02/10/22 trade w/MIL|
|1||#12||traded to OKC (07/10/19)|
FUTURE DRAFT ASSETS:
|2023||1||OKC has rights to swap picks (07/10/19)|
|2024||1||Traded to OKC (07/10/19)|
|2025||1||OKC has rights to swap picks (07/10/19)|
|2026||1||Traded to OKC (07/10/19)|
|2027||2||Traded to ATL (03/25/2021)|
2022-23 GAME PLAN:
If the Clippers can keep everyone healthy, they are a legitimate finals contender. There’s at least a 2-year window with this core to achieve that goal of winning the championship. The only real concern is finding enough minutes to keep everyone happy; there were guys who played heavy minutes this year who may not see the court much with everyone else returning healthy. The deep roster is the result of trading a large amount of future draft capital. The team may want to consider moving a couple of these extraneous vets out; those transactions could yield some future draft picks in return as well as clearing up what may become a logjam with regards to playing time. Morris was essentially a net negative player and his skill set was redundant so it’s likely he’ll be the one to be moved or otherwise out of the rotation.
The Clippers would be smart to add a couple veteran big men to at least have some options with size to run against the likes of Nikola Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns. Zubac has been a decent starting center; the team can pick up his option and then get one more year to decide if they want to commit to him long-term or move on. Hartenstein played well enough to get a bigger deal elsewhere, so unfortunately it’s unlikely that he’ll return; if a sign-and-trade could be negotiated, it may net the Clippers some assets.
The Clippers mortgaged a treasure chest of future assets to pair George and Leonard. If for whatever reason things go sideways and a championship in the near future seems unattainable, they may have to strongly consider pivoting at the trade deadline and becoming sellers. Moving some of the veterans on the roster could help replenish the cupboard. The big question will be Kawhi’s health – if he can’t return to form, it will force the Clippers to move in a new direction.
ASSESSMENT OF ASSETS:
|KEY BUILDING BLOCKS||George, Leonard, Mann|
|KEY ROLE PLAYERS||Covington, Jackson, Kennard, Powell|
|DEVELOPMENTAL RESERVES||Boston, Coffey, Moon, Preston|
|EXPENDABLE VETERAN RESERVES||Batum, Morris|
|WALK AWAY||Hood, Scrubb|
|OPEN ROSTER SPOTS TO FILL FROM TRADES OR FA||3|