Though the franchise centerpiece, Kawhi Leonard, has only played 12 games for the LA Clippers, it is clear how prominent his contributions can be. After missing the 2021-22 season due to an ACL injury, Leonard did not take long to pick up right where he left off. Regarding his impact, he was the team’s most important player since opening night.
Before Leonard missed time due to knee stiffness, he had a positive +/- through his first two games. Even after he returned weeks later, his impact did not go anywhere despite his low-scoring averages. This made it evident that time was the only deciding factor before Leonard picked up the pace.
Furthermore, Leonard shined in the Clippers’ biggest game of the year as he dropped 25 points, nine rebounds, and six assists against the best team in the league. Since this contest, he has played consistent minutes and moved exceptionally well. Leonard’s return story is surreal when considering that athletes typically take much longer to ease into the pace of a professional sport.
While 12 games may be a small sample size, Leonard is averaging 15.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in only 26.9 minutes of action. These numbers will quickly rise as Leonard has found a rhythm on both ends of the court.
The impact Leonard has on the LA Clippers is irreplaceable.
When Kawhi Leonard is healthy, the LA Clippers are nearly unstoppable. One of the reasons their offense has been struggling is that Leonard has missed 21 games this season. Although there have been other injuries, the Clippers need Leonard to attain a top seed in the Western Conference.
Through 323 minutes played, fans must note the LA Clippers’ net and defensive ratings when Leonard is on the floor. Not only does this prove how numbers don’t tell the whole story, but also how vital Leonard’s contributions will be when the postseason rolls around. These numbers get overlooked when discussing how dominant the two-time champion has been this year.
Moreover, the best way to prevent injuries is by load managing the games for Leonard. With hopes of breaking the record books, head coach Tyronn Lue needs to be cautious with his best player. Leonard’s injury history is no joke, and the coaching staff must take into account the severity of specific health issues he has faced since entering the league.
That said, Leonard’s availability ultimately decides where the Clippers will finish their regular season. The talent, coaching, and depth exceed the championship criteria, but if Leonard cannot manage his health, Lue and his squad will be back to square one.