The Clippers, knock on wood, appear to be past their difficulties with the health and safety protocols, and that means they have 14 available players while Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Jason Preston continue to rehab their injuries. Side note: how great was it to see Preston in the lay-up line for what appeared to be the first time Monday?
Jason Preston looks really to be enjoying himself as he joins his teammates in layup lines for a few rounds before tipoff today. pic.twitter.com/RDaVEnaMu0— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) January 17, 2022
Among those 14, Keon Johnson and Jay Scrubb seem destined for G League time. Neither has looked up to snuff when required to play rotation minutes at the NBA level, and especially in Johnson’s case, there’s no rush on their development.
However, that still leaves 12 players for 10 rotation spots.
The starting lineup should be set. Reggie Jackson, Amir Coffey, Marcus Morris Sr., Nicolas Batum, and Ivica Zubac is a lineup that Ty Lue likes; it’s already the second-most used lineup this season, and that grouping has started six straight contests. Lue confidently said last month that he needs a three to four game sample to figure things out, and he finally has some continuity with this five.
Lue also said he’s excited to get Luke Kennard back to spark the offense, and trot out the Kennard, Terance Mann, and Isaiah Hartenstein (LIT) trio in the second unit alongside Eric Bledsoe. That takes care of nine rotation spots and three more players still searching for a spot.
The center battle has some clarity. Lue says he plans to play three centers in the first half, and then stick with the two who have been playing the best in the second half. Against Indiana, those two were Zubac and Hartenstein, which left Serge Ibaka on the pine for the final 24.
But where does Justise Winslow fit into that mix? The Clippers have been outscored by 7.0 points per 100 possessions when Winslow plays next to another big; that bumps up to minus-1.0 per 100 possessions when Winslow is the small-ball center. Slotting the first-year Clipper in some of Morris or Batum’s extra minutes compromises the team’s spacing, but there aren’t many minutes available at the center line.
And then there’s the question of Brandon Boston Jr., who could be completely squeezed out by Kennard’s return. The Clippers have been better with the rookie off the court than on, but they’re still invested in Boston’s progress, and the 20-year-old brings an undeniable spark.
Perhaps these questions are all premature, and the Clippers won’t have the luxury of 12 players being healthy simultaneously. Or they will take advantage of their renewed depth to give their veterans some rest to solve their rotation bottleneck.
There is still a numbers game to address for now. And for all the good work from players like Boston, Ibaka, and Winslow during the lean times, now might be their turn to take a step back.
More news for Wednesday:
- Alex Wong has an interesting story about a Clippers rebrand that never came to be on the Spinsters podcast.
- Reggie Jackson and Ty Lue have a great relationship.
- ICYMI: We have an injury update on Paul George.
- The Agua Caliente Clippers are now 4-0 after Jay Scrubb scored 28 points in a win Tuesday.
- Let’s hope Terance Mann is merciful.