The Los Angeles Clippers kick their 2021-22 campaign off against the Golden State Warriors on October 21. The Clippers have one of the 10 most grueling schedules in the NBA this season and many are wondering how they’ll be navigating it without their superstar.
Kawhi Leonard will be out indefinitely — perhaps the entire season — so the rotations Tyronn Lue and company put together are going to be more important than ever.
Bleacher Report’s Greg Schwartz has put together an early predicted starting five for the Clips next season, and while he didn’t do anything outlandish in his predictions, his chosen starting lineup does call into question how the Clippers will utilize one very key player.
BR’s Clippers Predicted Starting 5 is Quite Predictable
Here’s who Schwartz has starting for the Clippers next season:
- PG:Reggie Jackson
- SG: Paul George
- SF: Nicolas Batum
- PF: Marcus Morris Sr.
- C: Serge Ibaka
Citing Batum’s three-point shooting and defense as primary reasons he’ll be in the starting lineup, here’s Schwartz’s logic for picking the starting five the way he did:
Batum started 38 of his 67 games for the Clippers last season and chose to return on a two-year, $6.5 million deal. He gives L.A. some good defensive versatility and connected on 40.4 percent of his threes in 2020-21. Ibaka chose to pick up his $9.7 million player option to return to the Clippers as well. A back injury limited him to 43 total regular and postseason games, but the 31-year-old should be good to go as the team’s starting center over Ivica Zubac this year. After trading both Patrick Beverley and Rajon Rondo in a deal for Eric Bledsoe, the Clippers should promote Reggie Jackson to starting point guard while Bledsoe serves as the team’s sixth man. Going small with a Jackson-Bledsoe backcourt is an option as well if head coach Tyronn Lue wants an additional scoring punch in his opening lineup, moving George to small forward and Batum to the bench.
This is an experienced lineup that should give the Clippers a solid first team unit, and it’s very likely the lineup they’ll roll with now that Patrick Beverley is gone. But is it the one that best optimizes all of the talent L.A. has on its roster?
What About Terance Mann?
It’s curious Schwartz didn’t mention Terance Mann at all. Mann will likely play a far-bigger this year than in years past — as he should, particularly considering how well he performed in the 19 games last season without Kawhi in the lineup. Mann averaged 9.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists in Kawhi’s absence.
Considering he averaged 7.0 points a game while also hauling in 3.6 rebounds and dishing out 1.6 assists during the regular season (all career-highs), his potential to have a breakout year seems higher than ever. And while Batum was impressive from downtown, Mann made 50.9% of his shots from the floor and 41.8% of his attempts from beyond the arc last year.
Maybe at some point, Mann starts and Batum comes off the bench? Mann played small forward his first year and shooting guard last year, so he’s versatile enough to move around a bit if the Clippers need him to. Entering Year 3, Mann still has to prove he could be a capable starter on a regular basis — but he should at least get the opportunity to try.