Clippers’ basketball is back! Or, kind of. The Clippers kick off their 2021-2022 campaign in preseason with a match against the rival Denver Nuggets, though both sides will be without all their star players. Check out the full preseason game preview of the Clippers against the Nuggets below.
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: 7:30 PM PT
How to Watch: Bally Sports Socal
Projected Starting Lineups
Nuggets: Monte Morris – Will Barton – Michael Porter Jr. – Aaron Gordon – JaMychal Green
Clippers: Reggie Jackson – Eric Bledsoe – Terance Mann – Justise Winslow – Ivica Zubac
Nuggets: Nikola Jokic Out (Rest), Jamal Murray Out (ACL)
Clippers: Kawhi Leonard Out (ACL), Paul George Out (Rest), Marcus Morris Out (Rest), Nic Batum Out (Rest), Serge Ibaka Out (Back) Jason Preston Out (Foot)
Things to Watch
Center Battle: The only truly interesting element of the Clippers’ preseason will be the battle for the final roster spot and third center role between Isaiah Hartenstein and Harry Giles. There doesn’t seem to be any indication in training camp that one has the edge over the other, and Moses Wright, another training camp invitee and undrafted rookie, is also in the mix. With Serge Ibaka still rehabbing his back injury, one of Giles or Hartenstein (or Wright, theoretically) will be getting “second string” minutes behind Ivica Zubac. Whoever gets that first crack might be the favorite for the spot, but it seems like preseason will probably determine who lands it. As written in the player previews, both guys are actually fairly similar in terms of strengths and weaknesses at the NBA level, so this might come down to the little things and who flashes more consistency or other skills. Hopefully both guys play well and it’s an entertaining battle that lasts all of preseason to help keep things interesting.
Justise’s Mobility: Preseason is not usually very valuable for player evaluation. One area it can be useful, however, is in determination of player fitness, health, and conditioning. The big concern with Justise Winslow is that his hip injuries have taken away the lateral quickness that made him a versatile and positive defender early in his career. It might be difficult to determine his effectiveness at the highest level of play (as in a tough regular season or playoff game), but we should still be able to just see how he’s moving out there. Even without the pressure of a higher stress game, hopefully we can get a better idea of where Winslow’s health and agility is at with 20-30 minutes of game action.
Mann and Kennard’s Aggression: The biggest issue with both Terance Mann and Luke Kennard last year (on offense) was a lack of aggression. With Kawhi, Paul George, and Marcus Morris out, this will be a perfect opportunity for Mann and Kennard to handle the ball, make plays for others, and look to create offense. I don’t want them to chuck willy-nilly, but hopefully both of them get up a good number of shots and really attack. For Luke, that might mean running the pick and roll and taking some pull-up jumpers. For Mann, maybe taking a few threes, whether off the catch or the dribble, as well as plenty of drives to the rim. There should be little deferral from either of these guys with the number of veterans out.
Young Guys: While all the players above are still fairly young (and therefore are more important to monitor than the true veterans), the other fun part of preseason is seeing rookies and very low-use young guys get playing time. With all the veterans out, it’s quite likely we see a good amount of Brandon Boston, Keon Johnson, and Jay Scrubb in this game, and while their play in preseason garbage time won’t mean much, it will still be fun to watch them play and see how they fare against a real NBA team, even benchwarmers. I don’t think there’s much to monitor regarding skills, just observing overall play.
That about does it for this preview of the Clippers’ first preseason game of the 2021-2022 season against the Denver Nuggets. As always, this will serve as the game thread, so comment on the game below!