At the start of this NBA season, LA Clippers fans were rightly excited. With a completely healthy Clippers roster, the team was primed to compete against the best of the best. The team has the offensive and defensive firepower to keep up with the rest of the league. The keyword here is ‘healthy’ as the team has suffered many injuries, particularly with its two stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Leonard has qualified for just five games this season, with George missing the team’s last fight against the Utah Jazz with right knee pain. George has featured and been available for 16/18 of the team’s games this season. However, he has his own ongoing injury history so let’s hope he stays healthy going forward.
After a slow start, the Clippers are finally back on their feet this NBA season, sitting fourth in the Western Conference and having won four of their last five games. The team has the second-highest defensive rating in the league at 107.7. However, they have a near-league-worst offensive rating at 108.0.
There are a few other positives to this season and reasons to be grateful as a Clippers fan.
Availability and efficiency by Paul George
It’s still too early to talk about whether or not his right knee will be a problem next season. However, it’s not too early to rely on George’s game when he’s available. George has already played more than half of the games he played last season and has consistently contributed solid numbers across the board more efficiently than last season. According to Statmuse, he is currently averaging 23.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.4 blocks per game while shooting 45.8% from field and 37.2% from three-point land.
This is without playing alongside another All-Star and essentially leading the offense. When he teamed up with Leonard, it never felt like George’s team. With Leonard’s availability in question, George has taken full command of this team and has delivered so far this 2022 season. He’s only gone under 20 points six times so far this season and already put up a 40-piece bombshell against the Sacramento Kings.
Ivica Zubac has quietly emerged as one of the best big men in the league
Ivica Zubac has really proven himself in the Clippers squad, especially this season. According to Statmuse, he averages 9.8 points, a career-high 1.9 blocks, 1.4 assists and a career-high 11.2 rebounds per game. He’s appeared in all 18 games so far and can score enough points with pick-and-roll baskets to average double digits later in the season. Zubac currently ranks 6th in rebounds per game and second in blocks per game in the league. At 30.8 minutes per game, he’s playing the most minutes he’s ever played in his career, and his stats per 36 minutes give him some wild stat predictions.
For a salary of around $10 million, Zubac is playing with insane value on his contract, according to HoopsHype. Zubac is showing the league that you don’t have to pay a superstar salary for a good big man who does his job without possessing overly coveted skills like goal scoring or playmaking. Surrounding a center with the right stones can make his teammates better around him and anchor a high-level defense.
John Wall finds and accepts his role
After what felt like an eternity, Wall has finally found a new home and a role from the Clippers bank. In 2020, the Wizards traded Wall for Westbrook in a blockbuster deal and went into full rebuild mode with Wall taking the lead. After a “mutual” agreement to sit games, Wall secured a buyout with the Rockets and was included in the Clippers’ roster to get off the bench. In a new role and a similar playstyle, Wall has found success in minutes.
Wall’s 36-minute averages are consistent with his past stats, with a 19 point average, a 1.9 steal rate, a 9.5 assists average and a 4.5 rebound average. Playing a career-low 22.2 minutes per competition, he makes the most of his opportunity by scoring efficiently. He averages 43.2% from the field while dealing at a high rate, still at 5.9 per game.
If he doesn’t improve his efficiency, including his three-point and free-throw percentages, Wall won’t take home the 6th Man of the Year. However, he will be an integral part of the success of a strong Clippers team that needs his offensive playmaking skills to boost their low offensive rating.