Kawhi Leonard’s Return Bolsters Clippers’ Depth Chart for Playoff Run

Nikki Attkisson | Last Updated : April 25, 2024

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Los Angeles Clippers received a massive boost to their championship hopes with the return of Kawhi Leonard for Game 2 of their first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks. Leonard had been sidelined for three weeks due to right knee inflammation, but his presence on the court instantly elevated the Clippers’ depth chart to formidable levels.

As the Staples Center erupted in thunderous cheers during starting lineup introductions, it was evident that Leonard’s comeback was the moment Clippers fans had been eagerly anticipating. Despite a rusty start that saw him miss his first jump shot attempt, Leonard’s impact was felt immediately on the defensive end with a steal off Mavericks star Kyrie Irving.

“He’s done all the necessary things he has to do to get on the floor and so he’s checked every box,” said head coach Tyronn Lue before the game. “He’s ready to go.”

With Leonard back in the fold, the Clippers’ depth chart takes on a championship-caliber complexion, boasting a formidable blend of star power, veteran savvy, and youthful energy.

Starting Lineup:

PG: Russell Westbrook

SG: Paul George  

SF: Kawhi Leonard

PF: Marcus Morris Sr.

C: Ivica Zubac

The return of the two-time Finals MVP alongside fellow All-Star Paul George gives the Clippers arguably the most talented wing tandem in the league. Both players are elite two-way forces, capable of taking over games on either end of the floor. With Leonard’s lockdown defense and George’s scoring prowess, this duo will be a nightmare for opposing teams to game plan against.

In the frontcourt, Marcus Morris Sr. provides a gritty, physical presence and a consistent outside shooting threat. His ability to space the floor and battle on the glass is invaluable. At center, Ivica Zubac has blossomed into a reliable two-way big man, anchoring the paint defense while providing an offensive spark with his deft touch around the basket.

The starting unit is further fortified by the presence of Russell Westbrook at point guard. While Westbrook’s play has been inconsistent at times, his relentless motor and competitive fire can be contagious, making him a valuable asset alongside the Clippers’ scoring punch.

Off the Bench:

G: Terance Mann, Bones Hyland

F: Robert Covington, Nicolas Batum 

C: Mason Plumlee

The Clippers’ depth is a major advantage, with a bench unit brimming with two-way players and proven veterans. Sixth Man of the Year candidate Terance Mann has emerged as a microwave scorer capable of changing games with his athleticism and scoring outbursts. Bones Hyland provides an added scoring punch, while Robert Covington and Nicolas Batum bring defensive tenacity and outside shooting.

In the frontcourt, Mason Plumlee gives the Clippers a physical, high-motor big man to spell Zubac and clash with opposing centers.

With Leonard’s return, the Clippers now possess the firepower and depth to potentially make a deep playoff run. Their path will not be easy, however, as the Western Conference is loaded with talented teams like the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, and Memphis Grizzlies.

“He’s got to be accounted for on both sides of the ball,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said of Leonard. “It doesn’t matter how long he’s been out. If he’s playing, he’s ready to go.”

Leonard’s extended absence allowed the Clippers’ role players to gain valuable experience and grow into their complementary roles. Now, with their superstar leader back in the fold, the team’s ceiling has been raised significantly.

While there may be some initial rust and adjustment period, the Clippers’ depth chart is built to withstand the grind of the postseason. Coach Lue has the luxury of mixing and matching lineups, going big or small, while always having a handful of two-way players on the floor.

Concerns may linger about Leonard’s knee condition and whether he can sustain a heavy workload. However, Lue emphasized that his star will not be under a minutes restriction, leaving it up to Leonard to self-monitor his condition throughout games.

For the Clippers, having a healthy Kawhi Leonard dramatically increases their chances of finally breaking through and capturing that elusive NBA championship. With a deep, versatile roster featuring a multitude of two-way players, the team is well-equipped to navigate the treacherous Western Conference playoff landscape.

As Leonard works his way back into game shape, the Clippers’ depth chart offers Lue a wealth of options and lineup combinations to counter any opposing game plan. If they can remain healthy and gel at the right time, this talented squad has all the necessary ingredients to etch their names in franchise lore with a historic title run.

Nikki Attkisson

With over 15 years as a practicing journalist, Nikki Attkisson found herself at Powdersville Post now after working at several other publications. She is an award-winning journalist with an entrepreneurial spirit and worked as a journalist covering technology, innovation, environmental issues, politics, health etc. Nikki Attkisson has also worked on product development, content strategy, and editorial management for numerous media companies. She began her career at local news stations and worked as a reporter in national newspapers.

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