AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
The Los Angeles Clippers have gotten off to a solid start, opening the 2022-23 season with an 11-7 record. But adding another center to the mix is expected to be a priority ahead of February’s trade deadline.
According to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, “Clippers head coach Ty Lue and the front office are aligned in searching for frontcourt depth beyond Ivica Zubac, sources said.”
He added that the team “will target a switchable center as an option for Lue to replace Zubac against zippier lineups, as opposed to running a full small-ball unit.”
That likely takes players like Myles Turner and Jakob Poeltl off the table.
The Clippers generally play small once Zubac leaves the game, with impressive depth on the wing and players like Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris Sr. and Robert Covington who can play the small-ball 5 in a pinch. Moses Brown can also handle the duties at center, though he’s been used sparingly to this point.
That depth wing could potentially be used in a deal to add more help at the 5.
Granted, the most pressing concern for the Clippers at the moment is the health of Kawhi Leonard. After missing all of last season with a right ACL tear, Leonard played in two of the first three games this season before stiffness in that knee kept him out of the team’s next 12 games.
He returned from that injury last week and played in three straight games before a sprained right ankle, suffered in a Monday win over the Utah Jazz, sidelined him again for at least Wednesday night’s showdown with the defending-champion Golden State Warriors.
“Just rolled my ankle,” he told reporters Monday. “But I should be fine.”
The Clippers are hoping so. Leonard has averaged just 10 points, four rebounds and 3.4 assists in his five games this season, shooting 42.2 percent from the field and 13.3 percent from three. Some rust was to be expected after missing an entire season, but L.A. needs Leonard to return to his superstar form if it is going to be a true title contender.
For now, the Clippers’ depth on the wing has helped them navigate Leonard’s health issues. But once he’s healthier, it will also be a valuable resource to aid in potentially adding more frontcourt depth.