Going into the 2022-23 NBA season, the Los Angeles Clippers have plenty of reason for hope.
Coming off a dismal season during which they fell apart in the play-in tournament versus the New Orleans Pelicans, they’re expected to get superstar Kawhi Leonard and key scoring guard Norman Powell back from injury.
As usual these days, they are expected to be in the running for a spot in the NBA Finals next summer.
As was the case three years ago when Leonard and Paul George first teamed up, some prominent members of the media are starting to drool all over the Clippers.
Tim Bontemps of ESPN said they’re “clearly the best team in the West,” while his colleague Bobby Marks piggybacked on his comment and said the Clippers are going to win 60 games.
“i think the clippers are clearly the best team in the west. they can play anyway, championship coach, they have everything required to be a champion”- tim bontemps
“i’m on the clipper bandwagon also i think they can win 60 games”- bobby markspic.twitter.com/e09MUmFDaA
— Jamal Cristopher (@JamCristopher) August 11, 2022
The Clippers are certainly a force and could win it all, but let’s not get carried away.
In fact, more than any other title contender outside of the Brooklyn Nets, they have some real question marks.
Leonard is coming off a partially torn ACL in his right knee, which is the type of injury that can rob an athlete of some of his viability.
Prior to the injury, which he sustained during the 2021 playoffs, he wasn’t exactly a picture of good health to begin with.
Leonard missed 22 games in the 2018-19 season, 15 the year after and 20 in the 2020-21 campaign due to “load management” for multiple ailments, including what is believed to be quad tendinopathy.
During the 2019 playoffs, many commented that by the NBA Finals, it looked like he was playing on one good leg, due to what was believed to be a related tendon ailment.
Leonard has had such issues going back five years, and it drove a wedge between him and the management of the San Antonio Spurs during the 2017-18 season, which led to him being traded to the Toronto Raptors at the end of the year.
At age 31, Leonard seems to have more wear and tear than most NBA stars his age, and how good he will be this coming season is a fair question to ask.
How he will hold up through a long NBA season is another fair question to ask.
In addition, George has also been injury-prone, as he has appeared in only 133 of a possible 226 contests during his three seasons in L.A.
The Clippers Have A Sizable Hole In Their Roster
Throughout the Leonard-George era, the Clippers have lacked a top-flight point guard who can dictate the tempo, set up his teammates and be a legitimate scoring threat.
After getting bought out by the Houston Rockets, John Wall signed with the Clippers, leading their fans to declare that they have their own version of a superteam.
Clippers seem to believe John Wall is apart of the big 3. I am leaning that way too
— D0M0 (@Domo_is_King) August 4, 2022
People who are trying to downplay the Clippers are ridiculous
They are CLEAR CUT favorites atm for the NBA championship
They are so stacked it’s crazy https://t.co/dvBg8otruj
— SINA.eth | NRN (@Sina_ETH) August 4, 2022
In reality, Wall isn’t who he used to be when he made five straight All-Star teams not too long ago.
Following a torn Achilles, he shot just 40.4 percent from the field and 31.7 percent from 3-point range in the 2020-21 season, and he didn’t play at all this past season after wanting out.
Such an injury all but ends the viability of most basketball players, and it seems unlikely Wall will regain anything close to his old form.
If he doesn’t, teams can sag off him defensively and watch him throw up brick after brick.
Without that top-flight point guard, the Clippers, more likely than not, will suffer another heart-wrenching playoff loss sometime in May or June of 2023.