With the Los Angeles Clippers opening their 2022-2023 season in Los Angeles against the Lakers, their roster is essentially set. Here’s a look at Kawhi Leonard’s return, as he could come back from injury and give the Clippers a real shot at a championship.
Cleared for 5-on-5
Back in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, the fourth-seeded Clippers matched up against the top-seeded Utah Jazz. Though the Clippers took home a 4-2 victory, Leonard had what the Clippers thought was a minor injury. However, it was soon found that Leonard had a partial ACL tear and would be out for the season. Missing the 2021-2022 season as well, Leonard hasn’t played in an NBA game since.
Recently, the Clippers staff cleared Kawhi for 5-on-5 practice with the rest of the squad. Clippers staff do state, however, that they’ll be cautious with him. Since he’s just coming back from rehab, the Clippers will take any measure to ensure that their star player can return this year.
Leonard has definitely proven his ability to play at an elite level throughout his career. Back in 2019, Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first championship. That season, he averaged 26.6 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, and 3.3 assists per game. Leonard was also efficient that season, shooting with an effective field goal percentage of 55%.
Two seasons back with the Clippers, Leonard averaged 24.8 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, and 5.2 assists per game. Though he’d dropped in points and rebounds per game, he’d increased his assist count. Additionally, Leonard shot with an effective field goal percentage of 57%. Kawhi, a two-time NBA champion, boasts two Finals MVP Awards and five All-Star appearances.
A healthy Kawhi Leonard returns to an improved Clippers team. This offseason, the Clippers picked up five-time All-Star John Wall from the Houston Rockets. For his career, Wall has averaged 19.1 points per game, 9.1 assists per game, and 4.3 rebounds per game, and will definitely add a reliable scorer and shot creator to the Clippers.
Other than Wall and Leonard, the Clippers’ other star is small forward Paul George. Having averaged 24.3 points per game, 5.7 assists per game, and 6.9 rebounds per game, George has led the Clippers in Kawhi’s absence. Other important pieces of the Clippers include Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Terrance Mann, and Ivica Zubac.
Kawhi Leonard’s return looks to be exciting for Clippers fans. For the past couple of seasons, injuries have held the team back. Kawhi’s return combined with a new signing of John Wall may be what the Clippers need in order to seek their first franchise championship.
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Featured image courtesy of Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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