After a deliberately quiet offseason, the roster heading into the 2022-23 NBA season for the Los Angeles Clippers seems to be pretty firmly established. While certain details regarding the rotation have yet to be determined by head coach Tyronn Lue (and they may not be until training camp in September), we pretty much know which jerseys are going to be donned on opening night, already.
Continuity, versatility, team-oriented professionalism all seemed to be core tenets upon which this current roster — perhaps the best roster in Clippers history — was assembled. With that in mind, here’s a glimpse of some of the more interesting lineups that I’d like to see from this iteration of the Clippers, next season.
#3 — The 40% Club: Powell, Kennard, George, Morris Sr., Batum
This is probably the most potent 3-point shooting lineup that Lue and the Clippers can throw out next season. It includes two previous league leaders in 3PT%, in Marcus Morris Sr. and Luke Kennard, as well as Nicolas Batum, Norman Powell, and Paul George, three other guys that, you guessed it, shoot over 40% from 3.
The best-case situation of this lineup would be an addition in Lue’s arsenal with which, at opportune times, Lue can rain down a barrage of 3s. It’s a mini-guerilla squad of immense shooting prowess, a nitro boost of long-range proficiency.
Imagine, if you will, a closely contested game through the first two-and-a-half quarters. Then, suddenly, you see five Clippers jerseys getting ready to check in. “What is Ty Lue doing?” you ask. The ‘40% Club’ gets subbed in.
They cash in on three or four 3s in a two-minute period. They get subbed out. And the Clippers ride that cushion the rest of the game to the victory. You never doubt Ty Lue ever again. Another use case could be as a, “break the glass in case of emergency,” Hail Mary type play in otherwise lost games. But really, it’s up to Lue’s discretion.
This lineup isn’t necessarily a throwaway on defense either. Powell, George, and Batum have all shown to be above-average, if not elite, NBA defenders. Kennard has improved significantly in both effort given and instincts on that end of the floor, and Morris Sr. has the experience and physical strength to hold his own, as well. Especially in spurts, and especially considering the league’s gradual shift towards small ball, this lineup can more than get by.
Granted, I’m taking a couple of liberties here. Namely, the inclusion of Paul George and Marcus Morris Sr., who both did not actually break the 40% mark from deep last season. I’m chalking this last George season to injury, however, and still including him here based on his prior body of work, which includes a 3-point field goal percentage of 41.1% during his first two seasons with the Clippers (2019-20, 2020-21).
Marcus Morris Sr. also only shot 36.7% from 3 last season. He did, however, lead the league in 3-point field goal percentage, with a 47.3% accuracy rate, just one year ago. And, presumably, his mark this coming season should be closer to that as Morris Sr. will be able to play off a healthy Kawhi Leonard and Paul George again.
But, if you must be a stickler about it, Covington, whose shot has been a bit more inconsistent but who did post an above 40% clip from deep last season, could be substituted for either of them.
#2 — The Star-less Night: Jackson, Kennard, Mann, Morris Sr., Zubac
Of all the lineups in this article, this may be the one that gets the most shine. Doubtless, there will be games where one or both of the Clippers’ stars is forced to the bench, for one reason or another. In which case, this is a wholly competent and complete lineup, sans any true star, that can be thrown out as a stopgap.
Whether starting, or more likely, as one of the most talent-laden bench units in the league, this is not only a collection of quality rotation pieces, but it’s a group of guys who have proven that their styles fit well together.
And Clippers teams of the past, especially in the Doc Rivers era, have found tremendous success with a somewhat standalone second unit. I’m thinking about the “A Tribe Called Bench” days, or the Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell tandem. In that same vein, the depth of this current team is highlighted by just how stacked this bench can be.
And while other players may pull the sixth-man gig away (Norman Powell), or even be higher on the rotation chart than these guys (Batum, Covington), this lineup, as a freestanding crew, has the potential to absolutely terrorize other benches across the league.
I mean, it effectively was the core group of the 2020-21 season, when Paul George missed 51 games. It also features some of the longest-tenured players currently with the team, so the familiarity that comes with continuity may make it a more reliable weapon in Lue’s arsenal, especially in the early season.
I chose not to include the starting lineup in this article, as the only real interesting aspect of that discussion is the Wall/Jackson starting point guard debate (which seemingly will be settled in Training Camp anyways, so why speculate?). To a secondary degree, who among Powell, Batum, Morris Sr., or Covington will start alongside Wall/Jackson, George, Leonard, and Zubac is a conversation. But still, not juicy enough to warrant a spot on this list.
Another lineup that I am interested in but don’t think we’ll see very much of will be what I like to call the “Young Guns.” This combination of 25-and-under players will likely be some permutation of Jason Preston, Brandon Boston Jr., Terance Mann, Amir Coffey, Ivica Zubac, and Moussa Diabaté.
Unfortunately, I don’t envision there being much playing time to be invested in these younger players’ developments this season, save in blowout games. Not in as grueling of a season as this next one will be. And not when the Clippers could roll out this squad instead:
#1 — Wingstop: Mann, George, Leonard, Covington, Batum
The Wingstop play-style really encompasses a variety of lineups, all centered around the idea of stringing together five two-way wings and seeing what happens. My colleague Justin Russo already covered, in detail, the most notable variations of this philosophy, so I won’t take too long here.
In that article, he dubbed these five players that I listed out above as the “We’re Here To Switch Everything and Disrupt Your Existence” lineup. And this, I believe, is the most tantalizing of the Clippers possible weapons.
The “Wing” part of Wingstop is apparent, but this lineup perfectly captures the “Stop” part of it as well. It’s principal feature is clearly the combination of skilled on-ball defenders in Terance Mann, Kawhi Leonard, and Nicolas Batum and disciplined off-ball defenders in Paul George and Robert Covington. At their best, the front line can stifle opposing offenses at their point of attack, while the back line covers passing lanes and punishes mistakes.
And on offense, the downhill ability of Mann, the nuanced repertoire of George and Leonard, and the spot up shooting ability of Covington and Batum make it so that cohesively this is a lethal, switchable defensive scheme while still being a complete offensive unit.
While this exact permutation of guys may not close out most games (I have to imagine that Norman Powell, the Clippers’ third-best player, on paper, will be out there in crunch time), I have no doubt that this lineup will win a few.