Throughout the early inception of the 2021-22 season, the Clippers have looked inconsistent, lost, and unready for a season with their best player on the bench. With the exceptions of Paul George’s stellar start and Luke Kennard’s emerging aggressiveness on the offensive end, the Clippers are in need of a win. On Monday, they get one of their best opportunities yet.
Coming into the game with the 29th-ranked offense and the 28th-ranked defense in the league, it seems the Thunder have embraced a full commitment to tanking and investing heavily into young talents Shai Gilgeous Alexander, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, and Darius Bazley, even at the expense of winning in the present. As such, the Thunder game presents itself as a good opportunity for the Clippers to get a win and stop an early-season slump before the losses add up.
If the Clippers want to do so, however, they must not take their opponent too lightly. For the Thunder (who own the Clippers 2022 first-round draft pick) on the other hand, this game presents itself as the same opportunity to grab a win against a struggling team, along with the added motivation that a struggling Clippers season would improve its own draft-pick arsenal.
When: Monday, November 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
How to watch/listen: NBA TV & Bally Sports SoCal, AM 570 Radio
Opposing perspective: Welcome to Loud City
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac
Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Darius Bazley, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Derrick Favors
Clippers: Keon Johnson, Brandon Boston Jr., Marcus Morris Sr., Serge Ibaka, Kawhi Leonard, Jason Preston — OUT
Thunder: Luguentz Dort, Vit Krejci, Tre Mann — OUT
The aforementioned young talent on Oklahoma City demand respect. The Clippers are more than familiar with the danger that is Gilgeous-Alexander, getting first-hand glimpses of his potential during his rookie season. Now, in his fourth year in the league and after signing a max rookie contract extension, Gilgeous-Alexander is leading the Thunder in scoring with 22.0 points per game. Rookie Josh Giddey also adds 10.7 points, while leading his team in assists and steals with 5.7 and 1.3 per game, respectively.
For the Clippers, George has been the clear-cut leader on and off the court, averaging easily the best PER of his career at 26.9 with averages of 27.6 points and 3.4 steals and a career-best 58.3 effective field-goal percentage. Kennard has also emerged as the player Clippers fans had hoped he would become: in Friday’s loss to the Blazers, Kennard was the only other Clipper beside George who scored double-digit points.
Playoff contributors Reggie Jackson and Terance Mann have largely been quiet this season. With Marcus Morris Sr. and Serge Ibaka joining Kawhi Leonard and Jason Preston on the bench, key returning contributors have yet to live up to expectations.
It seems the Clippers organization has chosen that getting reps in G League games would be more beneficial for the development of summer league and preseason star Brandon Boston Jr. That, alongside an early season illness to Keon Johnson and an early, significant injury to Jason Preston, seem to indicate that the 2021 Clippers draft class won’t be the answer for the Clippers early season struggles, either.
I expect players like Jackson, Mann, and Nic Batum to break out of their early-season slumps soon, however. And if so, then why not by taking advantage of the opportunity a weak defense such as the Thunder?
Either way, as long as George continues to be healthy, he will keep the Clippers in most games. If and when the other players start performing, there is still more than enough time to right the ship in this early season.