The Los Angeles Clippers were made to wait before they get a concrete Paul George injury update.
A couple of weeks ago, George suffered a sprained right knee injury during the Clippers’ one-point loss at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder. George sustained the injury after colliding with Thunder wing Luguentz Dort, and was down on the floor for several minutes.
It has been reported that George will miss at least the start of the Clippers’ first-round series against the Phoenix Suns. Shams Charania said, “[The Clippers] are gonna have to get out of this series without [Paul George] if they want a chance potentially to get him back.”
How does George’s absence impact Clippers’ playoff chances?
Fortunately for the Clippers, they have done better than expected in the midst of George’s absence. While waiting for a Paul George injury update, the Clips won six of their last nine games, including pivotal wins over the Thunder, Chicago Bulls, Memphis Grizzlies, and crosstown rivals Los Angeles Lakers.
Despite having George’s name on the Clippers injury news, the team still maintained a hold on the 5th spot in the Western Conference standings. They are matching up with the Phoenix Suns in the first-round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
Below the Clippers and the Warriors, the cast for the West play-in tournament consists of the Pelicans, Lakers, Timberwolves, and the Thunder. The Pelicans are one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now, winning eight of their last ten games. The Lakers aren’t too shabby either, as they have accumulated a 7-3 record in their last ten assignments.
The Clippers did well to hold on to that outright playoff spot, especially with George missing so much time. But come playoff time, who will step up if George remains sidelined? That question is a very important one, especially if the Clippers still want to be one of the best NBA dynasties in history.
These Clipper players should step up
It’s already a given that Kawhi Leonard will produce when needed. He’s back to being an elite two-way player when he’s on the floor. The two-time Finals MVP is currently norming 23.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.4 steals, while also producing shooting splits of 51.4/42.3/87.1 for a career-best 62.5% True Shooting.
Kawhi is just averaging 33.7 minutes this season, but that’s part of his load management program. His playing time typically goes up to 39 or 40 minutes in the playoffs, so expect more out of the five-time All-Star in the postseason.
The veteran Gordon has played 20 games for the Clippers, averaging 11.5 points on a scintillating 44.9% three-point shooting. He has only normed 4.9 three-point attempts in his return to Los Angeles, but since George’s absence, Eric Gordon has increased that number to 8.2 attempts.
Gordon’s ability to space the floor will be crucial for the Clippers, particularly in providing more leeway for Kawhi and Russell Westbrook to do their stuff.
It has been an on-and-off season for Terance Mann, who is in his fourth year with the Clippers. Mann signed a two-year, $22 million extension with the Clippers in 2021, and that will only kick in during the 2023-24 season.
For now, Mann is only averaging 8.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists, while producing a 62.2% True Shooting. He has always shown flashes of his scoring and playmaking abilities, but we haven’t seen him string together 10 or more games of brilliant all-around performances. Can Mann step up as the Clippers wait for another Paul George injury update?