Right now, the Clippers are getting some much needed time to relax and bond as a team. They’re currently soaking up some sun and fresh air, enjoying a nice fishing trip. However, training camp is less than two weeks away, and with it, the start of the all-important 2019-2020 NBA season. Training camp and preseason are usually unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but are certainly more relevant than the dog days, and can sometimes be informative. Here are three storylines to watch as training camp approaches, both in the Clippers’ pre-camp workouts and in the opening weeks of preseason.
Team bonding. You love to sea it. pic.twitter.com/XivmoasBg6— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) September 19, 2019
Paul George’s Health
We’ve been talking about it for months. But the question remains: how healthy is Paul George, and when might he therefore return? He returned to the basketball court a couple weeks ago, and has been present in almost all of the Clippers’ videos and photos. It’s unclear how much, exactly, he’s doing, but a return shortly into the regular season surely can’t be ruled out. I maintain it’s unlikely he participates in full contact before training camp starts, and it’s possible he doesn’t begin even then. The Clippers will be cautious with their superstar wing, and with Kawhi Leonard and a deep team of veteran talent, there’s no reason to rush George back before he’s 100% healthy. Still, if training camp arrives and George isn’t taking contact, it could be a sign he’ll miss at least a couple weeks of the regular season. Not a huge deal, probably, but it could set the Clips back in the standings a bit. Every game will matter, and George’s timeline and basketball activity will be tightly monitored by fans in the coming weeks.
The Starting Lineup
The Clippers have numerous options for the starting lineup even with PG out. Pat Beverley, Kawhi Leonard, and Ivica Zubac are all locks, but there are a handful of guys jostling for the last two slots prior to George’s return. The Clippers could go with any combination of Landry Shamet, Rodney McGruder, Moe Harkless, and JaMychal Green and it would not surprise me. Shamet brings the most shooting, McGruder the best perimeter defense and ball-handling, Harkless the most versatility defensively, and Green the most size inside and on the glass. If I had to guess, I think it will be Shamet and Green, but McGruder has apparently been extremely impressive in camp, and he would form a fearsome defensive trio with Pat Beverley and Leonard. There are outside options to crack the starters as well, like Patrick Patterson or Montrezl Harrell, but those four would be my top contenders. Their battles in the Clippers’ ongoing practices and preseason could well determine Doc’s starting lineup the opening weeks of the season.
The Training Camp Roster Guys
The Clippers have 14 players on their roster with guaranteed spots, meaning they only have one remaining slot on their NBA roster. Both of their two-way slots are already filled as well, meaning the training camp guys they bring in will have limited opportunities to make the team. So far, the two most prominent players the Clips have brought in are James Palmer Jr., a rookie from Nebraska, and Derrick Walton Jr., a two year pro from Michigan. Palmer is a wing who made the 3rd All-Big 10 Team his senior season, while Walton set all kinds of records in his four years as a point guard at UM. The Clippers are weaker at point guard than wing by a long shot, so Walton’s odds of making the team are probably higher than Palmer’s, but it remains to be seen who else the Clippers might bring in to camp as well. There are plenty of long time NBA veterans still available, and while the Clippers have had plenty of time to sign them, it’s possible one of them really stands out in camp. Of course, the best possibility is that the Clippers leave a spot open for flexibility’s sake, but it will still be interesting to see how the Clippers’ training camp guys do.
Well, those are the three things I’ll be watching most closely in the coming weeks. If I were to pick a fourth, it would be regarding the status of rookies Mfiondu Kabengele and Terance Mann, and second-year player Jerome Robinson. As of right now I don’t think any of them are in line for rotation minutes, but I could see Jerome or Mann sneaking in to the back half of Doc’s lineups if they impress in camp. What do you all think? What are some other things to watch before the regular season starts?