When the Los Angeles Clippers were able to secure a trade for MVP candidate Paul George, they also secured the services of two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. The trade was a major move by Steve Ballmer and the Clippers’ front office, and several major media outlets believe the Clippers can win the NBA Championship.
One thing that could derail a championship run is the current injury to George. Let’s go over his injury, how much time he might miss, and how the team will do through the course of an 82-game season.
Why Paul George could miss 10 games
In a tweet sent out by Mark Medina of USA Today, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers stated that Paul George could miss up to the first 10 games of the season after recovering from shoulder surgery.
That was a concern even before the trade, but George should return at full strength once he is back in the lineup.
Who will start in his absence?
When you look at the Clippers’ current depth chart, JaMychal Green is in the driver’s seat to log more minutes at the power forward position. Green was a very capable starter from the 2018-19 squad, averaging over nine points and six rebounds per game.
His per 36 minutes numbers should have Clippers fans excited, as he turned out 16 points and 12 rebounds according to that stat. Another good advanced statistic that will benefit the team is that he pulled down 27% of the defensive rebounds he had a chance to grab during his time on the floor, easily the best of his career.
Compare that to Pascal Siakam (Leonard’s power forward in Toronto), who grabbed just 17%.
The Clippers early schedule
The first 10 games of the Clippers schedule could get the team off to a very rough start to the 2019-20 season. With only a couple of exceptions, the early slate features legit NBA Finals contenders from both conferences. The Clippers topped the crosstown rival Lakers in the opener, then face the following teams between Oct. 24 and Nov. 11:
- Game 2: @ Golden State
- Game 3: @ Phoenix
- Game 4: vs. Charlotte
- Game 5: @ Utah
- Game 6: vs. San Antonio
- Game 7: vs. Utah
- Game 8: vs. Milwaukee
- Game 9: vs. Portland
- Game 10: vs. Toronto
Realistically, there are anywhere between six and eight games that the Clippers could lose without George in the lineup. Starting against the new-look Lakers and a hungry Golden State team is tough enough, but the two games against Utah could have a direct impact on seeding in the West.
The games against Phoenix and Charlotte shouldn’t be much trouble at all. Finishing out the early stretch with Milwaukee, Portland, and the Raptors could make the Clippers fall into a couple of trap games before Paul George returns.
How will Paul George’s absence affect the team long-term?
The games against Utah and Los Angeles could be pivotal to high seeding. Losing a tie-breaker to either of those teams could be the difference in making a run at the NBA championship through the Staples Center or on another team’s home court.
There are 72 more games to go after this first stretch, but with seven games within the Western Conference, it will be important for the Clippers to establish dominance right out of the gate. We expect them to go 8-2 in their first 10 even without Paul George, with the only losses being to the Bucks and Portland.