Entering the fourth season of the Kawhi Leonard and Paul George partnership, the Los Angeles Clippers have not been on the cusp of an NBA Championship yet for various reasons. In the 2020-21 season, that was the farthest the franchise has advanced in the postseason, and ironically they were missing Leonard in their Western Conference Finals loss to the Phoenix Suns.
With Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and the rest of the crew 100% healthy in the preseason, NBA fans and media members put the Clippers as a top contender for the 2023 NBA Championship. Instantly, that took a drastic hit because Leonard has played only two of the 15 games for Los Angeles, which is an enormous concern because he already missed over a year in recovering from a torn ACL.
Why the Kawhi-PG Clippers will never win it all
Even with Leonard to be back in their next game against the Detroit Pistons, he will likely have load management throughout the season, which has been an incurring problem in his tenure with the Clippers. The problem with having the best player and leader like Kawhi Leonard is his not being to galvanize the troops and developing bad habits that will not sit well with everyone in the locker room.
It is not just Leonard who will be missing many regular season games this year as John Wall is still slowly finding his groove and rhythm on the NBA floor. Moreover, Wall is playing a different role as the backup point guard to Reggie Jackson, so that is uncertainty on how that rotation will materialize toward the latter juncture of the season.
Arguably the Clippers possess the deepest roster in the NBA this season, but there has been consistent trouble with the consistency of their role players. Nicolas Batum exploded in their last contest against the Dallas Mavericks, but that was only his second double-digit scoring game of the season. Norman Powell and Reggie Jackson have both been shooting at 41% from the field and scoring an abysmal 11 and 10 PPG, respectively.
The Clippers are 29th in offense and 2nd in defense, which is not an ideal combination for a legitimate championship contender. They have the pieces to become a top-10 offense in the league, but it has been abysmal watching their offensive execution this year. With Ivica Zubac as the lone big man in their rotation, three-point shooting is a strength they rely on but being 19th in three-point percentage and 22nd in three-point makes is far from them being in the same category as the Boston Celtics or Denver Nuggets in terms long-range shotmaking.
Paul George has been leading the squad in treys with 2.6 makes a game on a decent 34.6%. Luke Kennard, Norman Powell, and Reggie Jackson are all making less than two long bombs per game, which is a point of concern for coach Tyronn Lue. Relying on their guards and wings becomes more magnified because of the lack of big man depth as they lost Isaiah Hartenstein in the offseason.
To cap it all off, the Clippers may have been regretting the Paul George and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander deal more and more right now. Los Angeles did not just trade a star in Gilgeous-Alexander, but they gave away five future first-round picks along with two pick swaps to be able to acquire both George and Leonard in pursuit of a championship.
With this trade, it means the Clippers have no choice but to stick with their current nucleus led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Western Conference is still deep, and the Clippers will need to stick it out and hope for the best for this iteration of their organization.