The Los Angeles Clippers came into this NBA season with a lot of hope and expectation, and rightly so given the makeup of their roster. Throughout the league’s history, we have scarcely seen a squad so stacked with top-end talent in the prime years of their careers.
Just look around that locker room and you’ll see guys who were number one or two options on other teams in recent years. Reggie Jackson with the Detroit Pistons, John Wall with the Washington Wizards, Norman Powell with the Toronto Raptors, Nicolas Batum with the Charlotte Hornets and Marcus Morris Sr. with the New York Knicks to name those outside of the franchise’s current top two.
So when Powell exclaimed during this season’s media day that he wants to be an All-Star this season, fans didn’t really bat an eyelid. With this team, there wasn’t much that seemed out of the realms of possibility – I was genuinely more surprised that he thought he could be the starting shooting guard, with Paul George nailing down that spot already.
The Clippers’ start to the season pulled those expectations back into check though, especially for Powell himself. It took him five games to find a double-digit point performance — 21 points in an eight-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder — while his shooting splits standing at 44.3 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from three on the season reflect those struggles further.
However, against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, he was able to find his rhythm and make a genuine impact on the team’s performance and subsequently the result of the game. In 31 minutes off the bench, he took 16 shots, including eight from deep, and hit 62.5 percent of them inside and out. He also recorded two steals in his first positive double-digit plus/minus display — including one great on-ball play to rip the ball from Tre Jones, which he finished himself.
Norman Powell's stats vs. San Antonio:— NBA Canada (@NBACanada) November 20, 2022
26 PTS | 5 3PT | 2 AST | 2 STL pic.twitter.com/NtMLn28Qxw
With Kawhi Leonard still getting himself back to sharpness and his minutes being managed accordingly, the Clippers need their other guys to take on extra offensive responsibility in order to get the team over the line — it shouldn’t be alien to them given their roles on their previous squads.
That will require more big displays from Powell especially. He has the ability to score on all three levels as much as anybody on the roster not named Kawhi or Paul, and he’ll need to be there to pick up the slack when those two can’t physically carry any more weight. There may even be an NBA Sixth Man of the Year award to play for.
Nothing is lost at this stage of the season. They’re just 1.5 games back from their Monday night opponents, the Western Conference-leading Utah Jazz. That statement in itself shows there is a lot of road left to run. Progress won’t be linear from here — we’ve seen more than enough to know that — but let’s hope they’re at least over the worst of it now.