Much of the Kawhi Leonard-Paul George era for the LA Clippers has been dominated by absence of a true play-making point guard.
Patrick Beverley wasn't the prototypical floor general. In their short stints, Rajon Rondo and Eric Bledsoe failed to impress. Then came what felt like the final answer to their years-long prayer: a prolific year from Reggie Jackson and the signing of five-time All-Star John Wall in the following off-season.
In the 2022-23 season, however, Jackson's production took a sharp decline and Wall wasn't the same kind of explosive facilitator he once used to be. So, only in the final turn of the fourth year with Leonard and George did they get matched up with a true and established point guard: Russell Westbrook.
Now the Clippers have added another one of the best point guards in the history of basketball in James Harden. The superstar duo has won the assists leader title a combined five times. But when you fix one problem, there always appears another.
The Clippers finally have consistency at point guard
The point guard position, for once, has a lot of depth and firepower. Westbrook and Harden, who have each won the regular season MVP award, can take turns distributing the ball. Bones Hyland and Terance Mann are two other young players who have ran point for the Clippers before.
As for the wing positions, there is always enough scoring and talent as long as Leonard and George stay healthy. It is instead the center position that is giving the Clippers a massive headache.
Admittedly, the Clippers have an ever-reliable center in Ivica Zubac, who is also the longest-tenured Clipper on the roster. The Croatian center is a solid role player, but there have been times when he gets into early foul trouble and leaves Head Coach Tyronn Lue without many options.
The James Harden trade diminished the Clippers' depth at center
Mason Plumlee recently suffered a left knee MCL sprain that will sideline him for at least two months, and Moussa Diabaté, a sophomore NBA player out of Michigan, doesn't quite look NBA-ready. Lue, in turn, has opted to go small with players like Mann or P.J. Tucker, who have struggled to guard opposing bigs in big moments. Former Clippers Nicolas Batum and Robert Covington, in contrast, had been exceptional in playing a crucial part of a small ball lineup.
This doesn't mean the Clippers are in desperate need of a superstar center. They already have immeasurable talent at the point and on the wings. But this issue is something they need to address to prevent it from continuing to be the obvious one that detracts from the team's outside talent.
The acquisition of a proven center like Daniel Theis is a step in the right direction. The 31-year-old is not much of a shot-blocking threat, but he is a capable rebounder and a center that can shoot the three ball. In his best season with the Chicago Bulls, the German averaged 10 points and nearly six rebounds.
As the Clippers struggle in the vast sea of talented Western Conference teams, they can only hope that this quick fix is enough to keep their ship afloat.