Will injuries destroy the LA Clippers?

Kawhi Leonard is one of the best two-way players in the NBA - when he's available.
Kawhi Leonard is one of the best two-way players in the NBA - when he's available. / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Clippers are set to square off with the Chicago Bulls at 5:00 PM PDT this evening (March 14). 

This one is supposed to be a cakewalk. The Bulls are having a mediocre season - and that's putting it generously. Unfortunately, it may not be an easy contest for the Clippers. Russell Westbrook is out with a hand fracture, and Kawhi Leonard and James Harden are both questionable. 

Suddenly, a mid-March regular season contest that ought to be a "gimme" could be a challenge. It's been said that availability is the best ability. If the Clippers aren't able to defeat the Bulls this evening, injuries could be the culprit. 

Is this likely to be a trend for the Clippers?

LA Clippers are among the most injury-prone teams in the NBA

We know. Injuries are bad. What a remarkable insight! Somebody hand the author a Pulitzer. 

Still, the Clippers are particularly likely to be plagued by ill-timed DNPs. Kawhi Leonard hasn't played 60 games in a season since 2018-19. He hasn't played 70 games in a season since 2016-17. This is one of the most injury-prone players in the NBA. 

Paul George's track record isn't much better. The last time he suited up for even 60 contests in one year was  2018-19. 

Surely, the Clippers knew the risks when they assembled this less-than-durable duo. Still, if injuries rob them of their potential again this season, we'll have to question whether the gamble looks likely to pay off. 

At least the Clippers have Harden. Sure, he might miss tonight's game. Even the most durable players get hurt. Generally speaking, Harden is among the league's ironmen. 

Will it matter come playoff time?

Are the LA Clippers built to last in the playoffs?

Harden's postseason resume is spotty. In last year's playoffs, he encapsulated that inconsistency. In Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Harden (then with the Philadelphia 76ers) dropped a cool 45 points on the Boston Celtics. Joel Embiid was injured, and Harden carried the day. 

In the next game, he dropped 12 - on 2/14 shooting from the field. 

This has been the James Harden experience for some time. His loudest defenders will insist that he's never had the right team around him. They'll have a point. 

One exception would be the 2017-18 Houston Rockets. That group surrounded Harden with 3-and-D wings and supplemented his playmaking with Chris Paul at the helm. Still, when Paul suffered a hamstring injury, Harden wasn't able to carry the Rockets past the Golden State Warriors. 

That shouldn't be seen as a major knock on the guy. Harden couldn't singlehandedly carry the Rockets past a dynastic Warriors team. That's fair. 

Why should we assume that he'll be able to carry the Clippers? In theory, this is a perfect team for Harden. His two co-stars are shot creators who moonlight as 3-and-D wings. Those are exactly the guys Harden has always needed. 

The point is that he needs them. In a vacuum, it doesn't matter if Leonard is available tonight. It doesn't even matter if the Clippers beat the Bulls.

What matters is that Harden and George both have player options this summer. The Clippers risk a total collapse if they don't make a solid postseason run in 2023-24. So, what matters is that everyone is available for the playoffs: 

They won't be a cakewalk.