The 2023 Clippers run 12-deep in NBA rotation players, which means that head coach Ty Lue will have a challenging time figuring out lineups and rotations. Of the myriad of potential lineup combinations, these are the three Clippers’ units that I’m most looking forward to watching in 2023.
Terance Mann – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Nic Batum – Robert Covington
This lineup, under some designations, would feature Marcus Morris instead of Terance Mann to put a unit of all 6’7+ forwards, but I prefer this one with Mann. Not only is Mann a far superior defender to Morris, he adds an energy, athleticism, and transition juice that this otherwise elderly Clippers’ unit could use. The key to this lineup is defense. Every single player is an above average defender, and four of them (all but Mann) have played at close to an All-Defense level within the past couple years. George and Kawhi in particular don’t reach those heights on a game-to-game basis, but for short stretches where the Clippers need to lock down, this lineup will be their best for defensive versatility and perimeter stopping power.
The defense should also help to make up for a bit of a dearth in creation and playmaking. Kawhi and George will have heavy burdens offensively with this unit, but getting stops and forcing turnovers should help them get out in transition and rely less on halfcourt offense. And even in the halfcourt, there’s enough shooting to spread the floor and enable Kawhi and PG to break down the defense. Small-small pick and rolls should be particularly effective, as every player in this unit has just enough ballhandling and passing skills to work in the short roll and make the next read. I don’t know if this group will work great against super speedy point guards (Ja Morant) or dominant big men (Jokic, Embiid, Giannis), but I love it against just about everyone else, especially as it’s the best rebounding of the Clippers’ small-ball lineups.
All Gas No Breaks
Reggie Jackson – Norman Powell – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Marcus Morris
This is the most offense-oriented group the Clippers can put out there, outside of maybe subbing Norman Powell for Luke Kennard. The Clippers will be able to put out five excellent three-point shooters, and every guy on the court can take advantage of mismatches to some extent or another. I’m not sure how anyone would be able to stop this unit without excellent switching defenses with at least four strong defenders, and even then this lineup could cook. Putting Norm and Reggie next to PG and Kahwi provides more downhill attacking, and the spacing here should lead to endless drive and kicks.
The issue for this lineup will come on the other end of the court. Kawhi and PG are good defenders, but the other three were below average last year. Reggie Jackson can’t switch onto everyone, and nor can Marcus Morris, though due to lack of rim protection, that’s probably the defensive coverage they’ll have to run. Also, hopefully with fewer minutes and less of an offensive burden, both Norm Powell and Morris can kick their defense back up to where it was a few years ago. Rebounding with this lineup will be an issue, as the Clippers would be average to well below average at every position. The hope would be the offense is so explosive that the other end doesn’t matter a whole lot.
John Wall – Paul George – Kawhi Leonard – Robert Covington – Ivica Zubac
The Clippers’ expected starting unit of Reggie – PG – Kawhi – Morris – Ivica Zubac should be plenty good. But it does not feature the newest Clipper, John Wall, or either of Robert Covington and Norm Powell, who played last year but not at all with Kawhi and barely with George. Therefore, I’m a bit more interested in this group, which features Wall instead of Jackson and Covington instead of Morris.
Wall is not the shooter that Jackson is, but brings more downhill attacking and pace in transition. That makes him a good fit with Covington, who has some of the quickest hands in the NBA on defense and therefore generates tons of turnovers. This unit should be very good on defense, particularly if Wall regains some of the defensive ability from earlier in his career, while remaining potent offensively. In addition to Kawhi and PG sets, Wall was one of the best pick and roll ball handlers in the NBA in his time in Washington, especially when paired with rolling big men. Ivica Zubac isn’t quite prime DeAndre Jordan there, but he has soft hands and is more than capable of finishing at the rim. It’s not quite as offensively or defensively potent as the top two lineups, but it might end up being the most balanced the Clippers can roll out in the 2023 season.
What 2023 Clippers’ lineups are you most interested in seeing? Let us know in the comments below!