5 storylines to look at in Clippers’ final seven months in advance of playoffs

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue couldn’t hold out to leave for Las Vegas adhering to his team’s ultimate activity right before the NBA’s all-star split, throwing a Louis Vuitton backpack over a shoulder and hustling out of Arena immediately last Thursday. Rest, following a very long and impediment-crammed plan, awaited.

Now it’s time to see how quickly Lue and the Clippers (30-31), eighth in the Western Meeting, can near their common year, a single that could see the team go in any number of directions.

5 storylines to enjoy in their final seven weeks before the playoffs commence:

Can the a few wings the Clippers plan to make all around for the upcoming even now be part of their present?

Paul George, who hasn’t played because Dec. 22 for the reason that of a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his ideal elbow, will undertake an MRI on Friday, a particular person with know-how of the scheduling mentioned, nevertheless the MRI is not the “the best decision-maker in what takes place,” with gauging the prospective for George’s return, crew president Lawrence Frank cautioned previously this thirty day period.

But there is of class hope George can play again and support in the postseason press. The staff is also “hopeful” guard Norman Powell, who is even now in a going for walks boot soon after a fracture in his remaining foot only three game titles soon after joining the Clippers, can continue to engage in this time, Lue has mentioned. And Kawhi Leonard? Even though it was Lue on Feb. 4 who mentioned Leonard is “probably not going to come back” this period, no one has undoubtedly closed that figurative doorway to a return, with Frank expressing later on in the thirty day period that “no one knows” about Leonard’s timetable. No one particular appreciates in element because no one can predict how extensive the Clippers’ time will run, with a rout of Golden State and a in close proximity to-victory in Phoenix past week signaling again that the Clippers could be a tricky postseason out.

A return this season could extremely very well be unlikely. But in September, the star said his prolonged-phrase contract’s structure mirrored his need to perform this time. To listen to Leonard say it, that intent seems to remain obvious — even if the actual execution and timing of a return is not. All through the league’s all-star break Leonard was listened to telling his fellow associates of the NBA’s all-75-12 months-team that he is “feeling a whole lot much better — trying to get again out there, person.”

Speaking of the postseason: Are the Clippers all but certain for the participate in-in round?

With 21 online games to perform, the Clippers sit in eighth position, 4 1/2 game titles driving Denver and the sixth seed, which would permit them to prevent the play-in by building the playoffs outright. Heading the other direction in the standings, they are six game titles up on San Antonio and New Orleans, who are tied for 11th, the 1st place to overlook the enjoy-in.

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Which is quite a little bit of ground to make up in a small time. Actively playing a league-history-tying 61 video games ahead of the all-star crack naturally provides the Clippers fewer prospects for victories in this last force (for context, Denver has played only 58 game titles), which helps make their next four video games against Houston and the Lakers — groups the Clippers are unbeaten from therefore significantly — critical to not losing ground. Only five game titles continue to be from the 7 teams now in advance of them in the West standings. It is one particular purpose why one particular plan-tracking web page ranks their remaining energy of schedule the 18th-most difficult in the league.

Just one detail to notice: The Clippers perform on consecutive times four extra periods the relaxation of the year. They are just 3-7 on zero times of relaxation.

With relatively small time left in the season, are the Clippers standing pat with their roster?

The Clippers are continuing to look about for upgrades. Players need to be waived by March 1 to be postseason suitable. But do not count on them to incorporate a player just for the sake of a new deal with as they carry on the difficult attempt to thread the needle of looking for enhancements for the present-day season although also focused on maximizing future year’s championship aspirations, as well.

To use just one much-discussed purpose as an example, what that appears to be like is weighing regardless of whether an obtainable direct ballhandler is proficient plenty of — or possesses some in the vicinity of-elite trait the staff prioritizes — to warrant taking away some of that ballhandling accountability from a participant these kinds of as Terance Mann. (That pondering, which has not adjusted much because the trade deadline two months in the past, also applies to players these types of as Luke Kennard and Amir Coffey, as well.) Mann’s potential to initiate early offense since the Feb. 10 trade deadline — and his staff-main as well as 10.8 in addition-minus ranking given that then — has been a thing the team has favored. Yet another issue to contemplate: Adding a stage guard may be moot if the staff believes George or Powell can return somewhat promptly.

Kris Dunn warms up in advance of a video game in between the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 20, 2020, in Milwaukee.

(Aaron Gash / Connected Press)

Goran Dragic has decided on Brooklyn as his buyout destination. Is there anyone in the vicinity of that amount of a big difference-maker who would entertain the Clippers as a landing place? D.J. Augustin ranks in the 100th percentile in details scored for each 100 shot attempts — but has also turned the ball around on 1-fifth of his possessions, in accordance to sophisticated stats web page Cleansing The Glass. Is a gamble on former lottery select Kris Dunn, who is currently learning by and large the Clippers’ offense with their G League affiliate, truly worth it?

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Frank has said the guide ballhandler need not search like a issue guard to male the job. And but, it is pretty much unattainable to recognize the way Lue has frequently highlighted the roster’s absence of a “traditional level guard” all through interviews and not feel he would like at the very least the alternative. Adding any individual would demand waiving a participant.

How efficiently will Reggie Jackson tackle a heavier workload?

Jackson desires to play any and all minutes out there, Lue has stated, and that’s not an exaggeration. Considering the fact that recapturing his self-explained love for basketball again late in 2020, Jackson hasn’t taken his options for granted. It points out why he pleaded, to no avail, to consider to enjoy in his first recreation back from the league’s overall health and protection protocols in December. But is there a panic of putting on down the 31-year-outdated guard and likely reducing his postseason performance if his recent workload carries on as the team’s workhorse ballhandler?

Since backup guard Eric Bledsoe was traded, Jackson is playing 34 minutes for each activity, about four a lot more than right before the trade deadline, when capturing 25% on 3-ideas and 40% in general. The promising aspect of that sample size, even so, is that Jackson’s turnover fee has also declined irrespective of playing additional minutes.

Can this variation of the Clippers’ offense be sustained?

Asked what most stood out about the Clippers not long ago, a single NBA scout pointed to an offense that has continued to find contributions despite dwindling choices. Those people minutes-very long stretches without the need of points that agonized the Clippers so frequently during the season’s first 50 percent? They’ve largely gone away because the trade deadline. And though that sample sizing is only five game titles, it is a single in which they’ve scored 114.4 factors for each 100 belongings, seven details better than their year-extensive offensive ranking that ranks 26th.

Kennard’s 70% shooting on three-stage shooting in these 5 online games has certainly helped. So has Nicolas Batum’s 52% 3-point shooting, Marcus Morris Sr. and Mann every single shooting 40% or much better from deep, Robert Covington’s off-the-dribble creation that has admittedly astonished Lue and heart Ivica Zubac averaging 12.4 factors and 8.8 rebounds down reduced while taking pictures 65%. By currently being better on both finishes, the Clippers have created separation by expanding their steals average by 1.5 for every recreation and their helps by additional than 3 for every sport.

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