Fans of the LA Clippers initially rejoiced when they were given the good news. While they were devastated by Kawhi Leonard’s torn ACL injury report, they had reason to celebrate as it was wildly believed that the former two-time Defensive Player of the Year would return at the back end of the 2021-22 season in time for a postseason run.
However, as fans twiddled their thumbs and patiently waited, it became painfully clear that Leonard would be unable to take the court. Still, even without their soft-spoken superstar, the Clippers fought valiantly in his absence. Nothing came easy for LA. Their remaining star, Paul George, despite playing well, was forced to miss 51 games due to a problematic elbow.
Regardless of their second star hitting the mend, the Clippers continued to fight. Nevertheless, with the addition of several mid-season pieces such as Robert Covington and Norman Powell, LA has caught the attention of Hall of Fame ball player turned TNT analyst, Charles Barkley. Although LA ultimately failed to nab the final playoff spot, he believes that not only will a healthy Kawhi Leonard and Paul George lead the Clippers to the promised land next season, but thanks to their refortified bench, the rest of the league is in trouble.
Who are the Clippers’ biggest competition?
With the Clippers fully expected to house a healthy roster, their Western Conference contemporaries won’t eschew the impending challenge. This past season, the Phoenix Suns rose to the top of the charts, finishing the year with a league-best 64 wins. Steadily making their own climb up the ladder was the Memphis Grizzlies. In addition to registering 56 victories, Memphis pushed the Golden State Warriors to six games before bowing out. Those very Warriors, on the other hand, have recently booked yet another trip to an NBA Final.
Furthermore, the Denver Nuggets should receive an injury boost of their own with the returns of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Lastly, their down-the-hall rivals in the Los Angeles Lakers, fresh off their own disappointing year, figure to have their own high level of motivation next season, after missing the playoffs altogether.
Still, regardless of the competition, Barkley believes that a healthy Leonard and the salient pieces they’ve added around him will push the Clippers over the championship hump.
Admittedly, Barkley hasn’t always put together the most accurate predictions. However, Clipper Nation is licking its chops as they wait and see what this version of their LA squad is capable of.