May 24, 2023, 11:05 pm
With a superstar duo, a championship-winning coach and a billionaire owner in one of basketball’s biggest markets, there is very little that hasn’t been said about the Clippers. It suffices to say that what has never been said about this franchise is that they’re the best in the league. An aging core plus justifiably high expectations equals pressure to deliver results. In the 2022-2023 season, the Clippers delivered exactly half of what seemed promised to fans. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George continued to be as good as advertised while leading the team to impressive victories against tough opponents while a solid supporting cast backed them up. Unfortunately, that supporting cast was called on to do too much too often as their superstar teammates had inconsistent availability due to health. Results varied without George and Leonard in the lineup, leading to the Clippers taking advantage of the unexpected availability of a high-profile cast-off from their cross-town rivals in order to shore up a weaker position and add more top-tier talent to shake up the team. Former MVP Russell Westbrook had some shining moments in his short tenure with the Clippers but his added starpower still paled in comparison to the Suns juggernaut they faced in the playoffs. Once again, Clippers fans were left asking what their team might have accomplished if things worked out differently.
How Did We Get Here?
It’s well-known by now that mega-rich Clippers owner Steve Ballmer went all-in on his current George-Leonard core after the former led his Raptors to the 2019 NBA Championship over that iteration of the Warriors dynasty. We’re several years past that point and it’s not clear if the Clippers are any closer to a chip than they were before they acquired the two-time Finals MVP. Oddsmakers in Vegas set the Clippers up as potential championship front-runners in the preseason in a vote of confidence for the then-injured Leonard to return at full health from a right knee injury that cost him the entire 2021-2022 season. With fellow star George in tow and some buzz around former star John Wall returning after his own hiatus in the previous year, the Clippers looked like they had the necessary depth in most areas and certainly had the aura of a contender.
The Clippers immediately struggled in the regular season as Leonard was clearly less than whole and could hardly be counted on for much on a game-to-game basis. Marcus Morris Sr. and Paul George did their best to help the team balance wins with losses for the first month of the season but they could only do so much for so long. During a poor stretch of play in early December, the Clippers faltered again and no amount of future lineup tweaks seemed to really keep them comfortably above the .500 mark. Being in the playoff hunt was always part of the plan but the optics around the team suggested they were keeping up as opposed to taking the lead.
With pressure from Ballmer above and fans on the outside, Lawrence Frank made several attempts at altering and improving the roster throughout the season. That included several trades of three former starters in Wall, Luke Kennard and Reggie Jackson. In exchange, Ty Lue incorporated Bones Hyland, Eric Gordon and Mason Plumlee into what was still expected to be a championship-winning lineup by the end of the regular season. All three ended up contributing solid value in their new roles but none were impactful enough to overcome George’s season-ending or Leonard’s newest right knee problems in the middle of a first round series with the Suns.
Los Angeles’ other franchise was most notable in fantasy circles for not being notable in fantasy circles during this past season. Despite their respective excellence, both George and Leonard were on the shelf far too often for comfort given their draft range and their absences didn’t always directly translate to a major boost for one specific player. At any point in the season it could have been one Clipper or another that stood out, mostly because the team struggled to create offense without playing hero ball. In the end, finding an ideal standard league streamer was usually a matter of finding the hot hand, whether that was Morris in October, Powell in November, Batum in December, Mann in January or several among a rotating cast after the All-Star break. Ivica Zubac was the lone bastion of consistency for this Clippers squad that could have desperately used more of it.
Is Ty Lue obsessed with guards or does it just seem that way? There’s a justifiable argument that the Clippers bench boss had no other choice. After all, what else could he do when Ivica Zubac was sitting or outmatched by a quicker or stretchier opponent? Things leveled out a bit when Mason Plumlee was acquired by trade in February but the Clippers had already earned a reputation as a small-ball squad that persisted right into the end of the regular season. Four-guard lineups were realistic, as were undersized players like Marcus Morris Sr. and Robert Covington being slotted in at the five. This sort of roster made the Clippers unique even in the pace and space era of NBA basketball but also made it hard to tell which one(s) among the deep rotation of quality swingmen would stand out on any given night. In fantasy terms, that made the Clippers hard to predict and limited the amount of trustworthy standard league options on the squad.
The rotation was a bit of a sore spot for fantasy managers and Clippers fans during the 2022-2023 season. There were times that it seemed Lue had “his guy” in the game instead of whomever might have been more appropriate at the time. Development-focused fans keyed in on Terance Mann’s minutes as the fourth-year swingman lost some momentum from last year’s mini-breakout while starting behind George, Wall, Jackson, Kennard and Norman Powell in a rotation that hardly featured Leonard yet. Lue didn’t feature Mann regularly until January after demoting the veteran Jackson, which became more permanent after the removal of Jackson, Kennard and Wall as obstacles via trade. Over that time between January and the All-Star break, Mann really blossomed as the starter at point guard before his momentum was halted once again when the team acquired Westbrook and Lue returned his reliable starter to the up-and-down minutes of the early regular season. Throughout Mann’s turbulent season, there was also the enduring question of Covington versus Morris as the small-ball five, which Morris won clearly in his coach’s eyes, or more generally as supporting combo forwards. There will be more on this in each player’s individual breakdowns but it suffices to say that -barring a hot start to the season for Morris — Lue was probably going with feelings over facts when routinely choosing Morris over RoCo. Both Covington and Mann were the sort of players that fantasy managers surely hoped would have had larger roles and that made their respective seasons a bit of a sore spot despite some good moments.
I’m not here to blame Lue for his choices and trust that there are reasons that someone with decades of NBA experience would choose as he did. It was glaringly obvious that the Clippers lacked shot creation and that was part of the reason that gunners like Jackson and Morris got extra playing time over less-willing creators like Covington and Mann. A guard-heavy rotation helped to alleviate some of the issues that a general lack of playmaking created so Lue deserves kudos for using his unique lineups to create and exploit mismatches. It’s not entirely his fault that this undersized lineup with shot creation problems finished in the bottom-10 for assists, blocks, field goals made and field goals attempted. Nor is it entirely Lue’s fault that his squad was outside the top-10 in 3-pointers attempted, free throws attempted, rebounds, steals or turnovers, but he deserves his share of the blame as the one at the helm of a team that claimed to have championship aspirations but delivered on much less. Injuries stopped this team from winning in the playoffs, but the regular season felt like a big underachievement.
The PlayersKawhi LeonardSF, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 52 50 33.6 8.6 16.8 51.2 4.7 5.4 87.1 2.0 4.8 41.6 23.8 6.5 3.9 1.4 0.5 1.7 21-22 LAC 0 0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 20-21 LAC 52 52 34.1 8.9 17.5 51.2 5.0 5.7 88.5 1.9 4.9 39.8 24.8 6.5 5.2 1.6 0.4 2.0
ADP: 25/28 (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 55/37 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 17/13 (8/9-cat)
Kawhi Leonard is really good at basketball. It seems too obvious to state but the vibes on social media were way off until January came around. The average NBA fan seemed to forget the half-decade of injury management that preceded this season while also overlooking the fact that this was Leonard’s return from a right knee problem that caused him to miss the entire 2021-2022 season. To make a long story short: Leonard took a while to get going this season, much to the dismay of many fantasy managers. Between October and December of 2022, it wasn’t uncommon to see some pretty far-fetched trades of Leonard for players in top-75 or top-100 range by managers seeking to recoup some lost draft value.
Once the former Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year got his legs back, Leonard more or less returned to the same cold, calculating two-way force that has dragged multiple franchises to the promised land. Those that stuck it out with him or gambled in a trade were rewarded with near-average or better contributions in all nine categories, with points, steals and free throw percentage leading the way. Among guard-eligible players, there were hardly any better options for blocks, boards and field goal percentage than Leonard and managers that built around star bigs surely benefitted from that extra out-of-position production.
A quick glance at Leonard’s per game valuation clearly shows that he is nearly unrivaled at peak levels, though it doesn’t quite speak to his maddening unavailability to start the year. The extent of his injuries and the recurring question of Leonard’s day-to-day attendance has been and will continue to be the debate surrounding the soon-to-be 32-year-old as analysts and managers start to gear up for their 2023-2024 fantasy drafts. After missing the last three games of the playoffs due to a new injury to the same right knee that caused him to miss an entire season, the same questions will echo even louder than before. Years of accolades and testimony exist as evidence of how valuable Leonard is on the court and in fantasy basketball. The only question that managers will need to ask on draft day is if Leonard is confirmed healthy. A confirmation should remove most doubts and see him drafted in the early rounds. Anything less and the number of managers willing to take a chance should drastically decrease. History indicates we might be closer to the latter than the former, so it’s likely that Leonard slides in drafts.Paul GeorgeSF, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 56 56 34.6 8.2 17.9 45.7 4.6 5.3 87.1 2.8 7.6 37.1 23.8 6.1 5.1 1.5 0.4 3.1 21-22 LAC 31 31 34.7 8.6 20.5 42.1 4.1 4.8 85.8 2.9 8.3 35.4 24.3 6.9 5.7 2.2 0.4 4.1 20-21 LAC 54 54 33.7 8.2 17.6 46.7 3.7 4.2 86.8 3.2 7.7 41.1 23.3 6.6 5.2 1.1 0.4 3.3
ADP: 21/24 (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 43/54 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 19/25 (8/9-cat)
Copy and paste some of the notes on Leonard and you have a fair description of Paul George. Elite resume? Check. Two-way force? Check. Injuries mucked up the whole experience? Double check. In truth, an All-NBA player of George’s caliber is much more than that but he was on and off the radar this year with right hamstring and knee issues. That knee would cause the Clippers to shut PG13 down for the season just before the playoffs.
On most nights, a healthy George was liable to produce top-tier results in points, treys, steals and free throws for his fantasy squad. With the exception of treys, George was almost equal to Leonard in these areas and had a clear lead from beyond the arc. The tradeoff was a much worse average result in field goal percentage or turnovers. Managers focused on results in traditional guard stats were surely happy with what they got from George this season. Although he missed the real NBA Playoffs, the 6’8” swingman was putting up quality numbers during head-to-head fantasy playoffs and it’s likely that managers forgave him for missing multiple weeks earlier in the year.
PG13 is several years past his age-30 season and just missed the playoffs due to injury. One mitigating factor is that George has dealt with multiple non-consecutive ailments, as opposed to Leonard, who has missed lots of time due to one recurring injury. For this reason, it’s unlikely that George will be penalized much for the most recent setback in next season’s fantasy drafts. While that comes with an obvious bad news disclaimer, it seems that his timeline for recovery should allow him plenty of time to prepare for the next training camp. The other concern which may be held against George is his advancing age by cautious managers trying to hedge against a drop in production. Though an eventual decline is inevitable, it’s not likely to come yet and it would be unwise to use the Fresno State product’s age as a deterrent. There aren’t many in the league that can reach his ceiling as a potential first round producer, so expect PG13 to be one of the first 20 or 30 names off the board in most drafts for the 2023-2024 season.Russell WestbrookPG, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 73 24 29.1 5.9 13.6 43.6 2.8 4.3 65.6 1.2 3.9 31.1 15.9 5.8 7.5 1.0 0.5 3.5 21-22 LAL 78 78 34.3 7.0 15.8 44.4 3.4 5.1 66.7 1.0 3.4 29.8 18.5 7.4 7.1 1.0 0.3 3.8 20-21 WAS 65 65 36.4 8.4 19.0 43.9 4.2 6.4 65.6 1.3 4.2 31.5 22.2 11.5 11.7 1.4 0.4 4.8
ADP: 101/79 (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 84/171 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 114/206 (8/9-cat)
Show me someone that doesn’t know exactly how every part of Russell Westbrook’s season went and I’ll show you either a liar or a non-basketball fan. As a former MVP in one of the largest media markets with the most rabid fanbase that seemed to hold him individually responsible for all things wrong with the team, hardly a day or even an hour passed by without some new slander or defense of the polarizing guard. If we’re being fair, there was a lot of truth to the on-court complaints about Westbrook but the whole thing became much bigger than that and caused such a recurring distraction that anything short of a divorce from the Lakers seemed unthinkable. That’s exactly what happened and it worked out in Westbrook’s favor as he stayed in town and linked up with the Clippers.
The thing that everyone agrees on when it comes to Westbrook is that he can fill a stat sheet. He was doing it with the Lakers with exponentially less aplomb than he would later receive for the same results with the Clippers but the general outcome was the same. To nobody’s surprise, the man that averaged a triple-double for several seasons continued to score at a decent clip while adding lots of assists and rebounds. Passable but unspectacular defensive contributions and at least one trey per night were the last of a decent package for those with a limited scope of needs, but there was a dark side to rostering the former MVP. What’s left unsaid to this point is the absolute devastation Westbrook could and did wreak on his fantasy squad’s results in field goal percentage, free throw percentage and turnovers. In a sense, his place on rosters seemed to signal a commitment to punting those categories. If a manager did so knowingly, then they probably had some agreeable results and valued Westbrook higher than his overall ranking would suggest. Those that rostered him without leaning into the punt(s) definitely had a rougher experience.
Moving into the next season, all one needs to do when considering Westbrook is evaluate their tolerance for poor efficiency. It’s hard to foresee the draft market becoming more bullish on Westbrook than it has in previous seasons, so he seems like an obvious buy low candidate for managers that have a higher risk tolerance. Managers that worked around his deficiencies this year would be happy to confirm that he returned top-50 value when removing those categories from consideration and it’s not likely that the mega-competitive and well-conditioned Westbrook slows down next season.Ivica ZubacC, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 76 76 28.6 4.3 6.8 63.4 2.2 3.1 69.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 10.8 9.9 1.0 0.4 1.3 1.5 21-22 LAC 75 75 24.4 4.1 6.5 62.7 2.2 3.0 72.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 10.3 8.4 1.6 0.5 1.0 1.5 20-21 LAC 71 32 22.7 3.6 5.5 65.2 1.9 2.4 78.9 0.0 0.1 25.0 9.2 7.3 1.3 0.3 0.9 1.1
ADP: 102/123 (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 86/90 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 118/113 (8/9-cat)
Whether with the on-court product or fantasy basketball, consistency matters and is often rewarded. Through that lens, we can get a good feel for what Ivica Zubac brought to the table in the 2022-2023 season. In truth, his statistical contributions don’t feel like much but are still far from insignificant. As the sole pivot on the squad for most of the season, there was no shortage of opportunity for Zubac, who responded with his typical package of top-tier field goal percentage, blocks and boards with low turnovers. The eventual addition of Mason Plumlee was originally forecast as a sign that both centers would cannibalize each other’s fantasy value but proved to be wholly inaccurate as Zubac’s value slightly increased. He graduated to top-100 range in the period between the All-Star Game and the end of the regular season, which would cover his time sharing the post with Plumlee. In fact, the only things that seemed to drag Zubac’s numbers down this season were matchup-based adjustments that forced Ty Lue to bench the 7-footer for a small-ball approach.
It’s unlikely that much changes next season. Zubac seems to be entrenched at center for the Clippers until further notice and he has already proven capable of sharing the position with other capable players like Plumlee this season or Isaiah Hartenstein last year. As with many of the other bigs that typically go in the mid-to-late rounds of fantasy drafts, Zubac’s value comes with a disclaimer in the form of his limited categorical contributions. The Croatian center puts up around 10 points a game but that still falls considerably short of average value in that category and his free throws are only good relative to the low bar set by his positional peers. Further, Zubac fails to post anything of substance in several other areas, including treys, assists and steals. For a player who is typically drafted in the eighth round and beyond, Zubac’s potential to be a value-added contributor to a fantasy squad should depend on team composition and how closely the team he’s drafted by mirrors his strengths. Zubac is worth a reach for those managers that want to regularly win traditional big man categories but would certainly work as a steadying presence for any team that is lucky enough to pick him up in the 10th-to-12th round range.Norman PowellSF, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 60 8 26.1 5.7 11.8 47.9 3.8 4.6 81.2 1.9 4.8 39.7 17.0 2.9 1.8 0.8 0.3 1.7 21-22 LAC 45 41 32.4 6.2 13.4 46.1 4.2 5.2 81.1 2.4 5.6 41.9 19.0 3.2 2.1 0.9 0.5 1.5 20-21 POR 68 57 31.9 6.4 13.4 47.6 3.4 3.9 86.8 2.5 6.0 40.9 18.6 3.1 1.9 1.2 0.3 1.7
ADP: 127/139 (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 158/167 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 143/151 (8/9-cat)
Readers of The Week Ahead will likely recall that Norman Powell was one of my most common streaming recommendations on a week-to-week basis. In the first month of a season, those recommendations could be summed up as, “please trust me when I say he’s not really this bad,” as managers sent him to the waiver wire with increasing regularity. Powell’s first month of play was disappointing at best as the swingman registered a per game valuation outside the top-250 in 9-cat formats. Things picked up in mid-November after he got some extra reps in a full week of blowout games for the Clippers but that momentum was promptly stopped by a multi-week absence. By the New Year, Powell’s early season struggles became less of a focus and he returned to his typical fantasy package of solid points, treys and steals on solid shooting percentages with low turnovers. Hovering around average or better marks in each of those areas for the rest of the season would bring Powell’s overall ranking back to a respectable range but unfortunately could not erase the first few months of poor play or earn forgiveness from managers that didn’t easily forget how he started.
There was a curious coincidence with how Powell’s season played out: his struggles mirrored Leonard’s. In theory, a scorer like Powell might benefit from the extra offensive responsibilities he typically absorbs when one of the stars is out. In practice, it seemed that Powell was one of the biggest beneficiaries of Leonard’s return to form. With the gravity of two superstars on the floor, Powell could more easily exploit gaps in the defense and get to his comfort spots on the floor without extra defensive pressure. Managers started to see the difference that a few points per game and a major leap in efficiency can do for a player whose value is so heavily rooted in those areas. The last two months of the season did actually see Powell move back into top-100 range and graduate from streamer to hold.
Moving into the 2023-2024 season, managers can likely expect a similar result to what we saw this year. As with his Raptors days, Powell’s game-to-game results may vary more than most due to his role as a tertiary scorer on a team with a clear pecking order at the top. It will continue to be his job to get in where he fits in and it’s likely that this relative lack of consistency will yield as many positive results as negative. That sort of risk isn’t advisable for a top-100 pick even if Powell has registered an overall ranking in that range in several past seasons and at points this time around. For the volatility of his role and the general volatility of his best categories, Powell should and will likely make it past the top-100 of most drafts as he did this past season. When the NBA is back, I will continue to advise that managers buy low when he struggles, sell high when he’s experiencing success and to stream whenever advantageous because Powell isn’t the sort of player that a fantasy team should tie its hopes to despite his ability to contribute real value.Marcus Morris Sr.PF, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 65 65 28.1 4.2 9.9 42.6 1.0 1.3 78.2 1.7 4.7 36.4 11.2 4.0 1.8 0.6 0.3 0.9 21-22 LAC 54 54 29.0 5.6 12.8 43.4 2.4 2.7 87.2 1.9 5.1 36.7 15.4 4.4 2.1 0.5 0.3 1.3 20-21 LAC 57 29 26.4 4.8 10.2 47.3 1.3 1.6 82.0 2.5 5.2 47.3 13.4 4.1 1.0 0.6 0.3 1.0
ADP: 138/141 (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 191/183 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 218/203 (8/9-cat)
The contrast between perceived value and actual value always seems to be highlighted when Marcus Morris becomes the subject of discussion. Fans will correctly note that there is a certain intangibility to what hard-nosed glue guys like Morris bring to the table, while critics will ask for evidence that inefficient volume shooting and no clear defensive impact isn’t the outright negative that it seems to be. Those of us in the fantasy realm have a bias towards numbers and will have a natural inclination to focus on them when making our evaluation. In the earliest parts of this past season, Morris may have been one of the most impactful players drafted outside of the top-100. For the first month of the season, Morris was a top-50 option with nearly universal fantasy appeal as evidenced by his near-average or better marks in every category but assists and blocks. Even next to Paul George, Morris had a legitimate argument as the Clippers’ early season MVP while Leonard struggled. The subsequent month saw Morris’ value crater to top-200 range, which would mix with the massive disappointment of his play after the All-Star break and cement his ranking in that same range. A period between mid-December and mid-January was the only other bright spot in a season that seemed to give more ammo to the anti-Morris crowd than the Morris advocates.
The same polarization should continue to impact Morris in terms of his NBA role and his perceived fantasy value. Despite some pretty glaring red flags with his results and efficiency — especially over the final stretch of the season — Morris was a staple in the starting lineup and had value as a multi-positional defender that was willing to play the post for a team desperately in need of help there. Everything about his reputation suggests that Morris will continue to be aggressive while on the floor, which could mean lots of things — points, treys and terrible field goal percentage, to name a few — but ultimately, it should mean that Morris retains his comfortable role as a tertiary scorer and role player whose impact on the game may be more evident in film than on box scores. That’s probably going to lead to more hot-and-cold streaks, which should limit the enthusiasm many managers have for drafting him outside of the last few rounds of standard drafts. Points leagues may place a higher value on his services than category leagues, but the net result should be that Morris ends up as an end-of-bench option in most formats with no guarantee of sticking on the roster for an entire season.Mason PlumleeC, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 79 60 26.0 4.2 6.1 68.0 2.5 4.0 63.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 10.8 8.9 3.1 0.6 0.6 1.5 21-22 CHA 73 73 24.5 2.8 4.4 64.1 0.9 2.3 39.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 6.5 7.7 3.1 0.8 0.7 1.4 20-21 DET 56 56 26.8 4.2 6.8 61.4 2.0 3.0 66.9 0.0 0.1 0.0 10.4 9.3 3.6 0.8 0.9 1.9
ADP: 141/141 (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 100/103 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 138/136 (8/9-cat)
If this year was split in half and treated as two distinct seasons, I would tell you a much different story about Mason Plumlee. A shaky start to the season as the starting center for the lowly Hornets allowed Plumlee to fly under the radar as a rebounds specialist with solid assists and field goal percentage with little attention from the fantasy world. Then Plumlee exploded as a top-50 option between December and mid-February. Simply put, he was far too good to be playing on a team that was far too bad and the Hornets sent him packing so they could focus on developing young talent while positioning themselves for the best possible lottery pick. History had already substantively proven that Plumlee’s 20 & 10 double-doubles were an anomaly but that didn’t stop the Clippers from cashing in on an opportunity to add a potential contributor at a position of dire need. Unfortunately, Ty Lue had become too used to playing small-ball centers and Plumlee didn’t get nearly the same opportunity that he had left behind. Barring a few very productive stints with the starters, Plumlee just didn’t receive enough playing time to continue being treated as a standard league asset and would likely have spent most of March and April on waiver wires.
So what Mason Plumlee are we going to get next season? Will it be the one we saw with the Hornets or the one we saw with the Clippers? The answer seems obvious if nothing changes and he remains in place with the Clippers behind Zubac. However, the futures of non-essential veterans with expired contracts are far from guaranteed and Plumlee fits the bill as a potentially valuable target for franchises looking to make cost-effective roster moves and/or fill a positional need in the post. If Plumlee should find himself in a situation that resembles his Hornets tenure and major playing time seems guaranteed, then he could once again prove to be an unheralded fantasy asset. However, if the league treats him like the mid-level veteran that he is, then it’s more likely that Plumlee settles into a role as the fifth-best starter or a very capable backup on a competitive team such as the Clippers. Unfortunately, those sort of players aren’t typically worth drafting and often prove to only be valuable in small doses. Managers should act accordingly at drafts.Nicolas BatumPF, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 78 19 21.9 2.1 4.9 42.0 0.4 0.6 70.8 1.6 4.1 39.1 6.1 3.8 1.6 0.7 0.6 0.6 21-22 LAC 59 54 24.8 3.0 6.6 46.3 0.4 0.6 65.8 1.8 4.6 40.0 8.3 4.3 1.7 1.0 0.7 0.7 20-21 LAC 67 38 27.4 2.9 6.1 46.4 0.7 0.9 82.8 1.6 4.1 40.4 8.1 4.7 2.2 1.0 0.6 0.8
ADP: N/A/N/A (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 167/137 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 224/190 (8/9-cat)
Enough time has now passed that the general NBA fan has forgotten about the contract-induced vitriol that Nicolas Batum used to inspire on social media. All we are left with now is a capable veteran whose role, production and compensation have been brought back to equilibrium. There were points in the past season that fans were treated to something similar to peak Batum production, where the Frenchman posted well-rounded if unspectacular lines of treys, rebounds and assists with solid numbers in defense and efficiency. Those were typical of the spot starts he would receive during the respective absences of George and Leonard. Barring those circumstances, Batum tended to function as most late career veterans do: with minimal measurable contributions outside of a positive plus-minus trend for the team.
Time is running out for the 6’8” combo forward as Batum will inevitably, perhaps sooner than later, decline to the point that he is no longer used with any regularity. Whether that comes in 2023 or beyond is irrelevant because nothing Batum did this year or in recent memory has earned him a coveted top-150 valuation for standard leagues. As league depth grows, so too will the appeal of the multi-skilled Frenchman but he is likely to be on waiver wires in 16-team formats or more and should be treated as a short-term asset at best during the final stages of his impressive career. Managers should look for him when injuries strike and nothing more, as the limited volume of his contributions in a reduced role won’t validate any further attention.Terance MannPG, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 81 36 23.1 3.4 6.5 51.9 1.1 1.5 78.0 1.0 2.4 38.9 8.8 3.4 2.3 0.5 0.3 1.0 21-22 LAC 80 32 28.7 4.1 8.5 48.3 1.6 2.0 77.9 0.9 2.6 36.4 10.8 5.3 2.6 0.7 0.2 1.0 20-21 LAC 66 10 18.8 2.6 5.2 50.0 1.1 1.3 83.1 0.6 1.3 41.6 6.9 3.6 1.6 0.4 0.2 0.6
ADP: N/A/N/A (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 164/157 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 235/232 (8/9-cat)
Does anyone remember how they first learned Terance Mann’s name? Speaking personally, it was when Mann seemingly single-handedly led the Clippers to a 25-point comeback in a series-sealing victory over the Jazz in the 2021 Western Conference Semifinals. In the subsequent season, Mann continued to demonstrate growth as a high-energy player with solid defense and ball-handling. In the latter parts of that season, Mann demonstrated some proclivity at point guard that was relatively unexpected. Heading into the 2022-2023 season, it was reasonable to expect that Mann would build on what seemed like a solid growth trajectory. As noted above, Mann saw a drop in playing time this past season and only had a limited opportunity to demonstrate further growth as a point guard option. When given a chance, Mann showed a lot of the same skills that had once earned him acclaim and rewarded opportunistic managers with low-end production of points, treys, assists, shooting percentages and low turnovers that would have made him a passable option in 12-team leagues and even better in deeper formats.
Mann is one of the Clippers’ most attractive trade assets due to his combination of affordability, age and productivity. While he doesn’t seem like a trade candidate in the offseason, there’s no telling what Ballmer and Frank will be willing to sacrifice to get to the promised land. In fact, that might even create a better opportunity for Mann. Should he return to starter’s minutes such as he had in the 2021-2022 season, there’s good reason to believe that Mann could surpass what seems likely to be a low or unrated ADP. With Leonard’s status for next season already unclear, there is already some potential for that to be a reality with the Clippers. Unfortunately, we’re not fortune tellers and this question will probably need to be re-evaluated after training camp. Mann is only a deep league asset until further notice.Eric GordonSF, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 69 58 28.5 4.2 9.5 44.6 2.1 2.5 82.1 1.9 5.2 37.1 12.4 1.9 2.7 0.6 0.4 1.5 21-22 HOU 57 46 29.3 4.7 9.9 47.5 1.8 2.4 77.8 2.2 5.3 41.2 13.4 2.0 2.7 0.5 0.3 1.9 20-21 HOU 28 13 28.2 5.7 13.1 43.3 3.4 4.1 82.5 2.5 7.5 32.9 17.2 2.1 2.5 0.5 0.5 1.8
ADP: N/A/N/A (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 192/223 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 170/181 (8/9-cat)
After being drafted in the lottery by the franchise in 2008 and having some of the best years of his career as a member of the Clippers, Eric Gordon had a homecoming of sorts this season. When the season kicked off, the veteran guard was a fish out of water as a member of the Rockets and was similar to his future teammate, Mason Plumlee, in that he was playing too well for a franchise that seemed to prefer the opposite. Cue the Clippers, who turned John Wall and Luke Kennard into Gordon and several second round picks as part of a 3-team trade around the February deadline. For a team that was struggling with shot creation from its non-star contributors, acquiring a former Sixth Man of the Year winner was probably a pretty easy decision and it seemed a logical one at the time. There were times when Gordon clearly validated the decision to bring him into the fold and others where it seemed that he wasn’t contributing much if not 3-pointers, leading fans to question why the team even bothered with a like-for-like replacement of Kennard. For fantasy purposes, there really wasn’t much of a difference between Gordon and Kennard, as both have been typecast as shooting specialists with limited impact in other categories, but Gordon did seem to have a longer leash due to his superior ball-handling and rim pressure.
High-scoring veterans tend to be expensive and that is certainly true of Gordon, whose hefty contract isn’t yet guaranteed and could represent a major trade asset in pre-draft discussions. His contract will be guaranteed after that point and there will be more clarity about his future with the Clippers. It’s far too early to know where he will play ball next year but the 6’3” guard has a static fantasy package: points, treys and free throws with low turnovers. Those that have use for these categories may find that Gordon continues to be a standard league streaming asset in the 2023-2024 season but he hasn’t been worth holding in 12-team leagues for years and that should be reflected in his ADP no matter what uniform he wears next season. He’s too good to keep on the bench and not productive enough to reach his former ceiling, so the Clippers or another team will likely slot Gordon into an identical role next year.Robert CovingtonSF, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 48 0 16.2 2.1 4.8 44.5 0.6 0.8 75.0 1.1 2.8 39.7 6.0 3.5 1.2 0.8 0.7 0.7 21-22 LAC 70 41 27.5 2.9 7.0 42.0 0.8 1.0 84.1 1.8 4.8 37.4 8.5 5.5 1.3 1.5 1.3 1.1 20-21 POR 69 69 32.1 2.9 7.3 40.3 0.7 0.9 80.3 2.0 5.1 38.4 8.6 6.7 1.7 1.4 1.2 0.9
ADP: 132/139 (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 258/243 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 226/194 (8/9-cat)
New managers might not know this but Robert Covington was once a top-20 fantasy player. In fact, he was in top-50 range when the 2021-2022 season came to a close and seemed like an ideal buy low option when his late round ADP for 2022-2023 started to take shape. It turns out that the skeptics were right to pass on Covington for the past season. Despite his incredible fantasy resume, the 3-and-D stud’s season was a dud from the start. After starting first few games of the year at about 20 minutes per night — already a bad omen — Covington succumbed to a short-term injury and then returned to halved playing time with inconsistent usage. That became part of a larger trend for the veteran combo forward whose game-to-game appearances were even less consistent than that of his notoriously unavailable star teammates.
So what does all this mean for Covington moving forward? Well, he did have a trademark “I can still do this,” game every couple of weeks or so, but is that what managers are looking for in 12-team drafts? One imagines a resounding “No,” to that rhetorical question but it’s fair to question how much health, roster volatility and some questionable rotational choices impacted Covington this season. Every advanced metric suggests he was the superior small-ball center, 3-point shooter and utility defender when compared with Morris, who was the clear winner of this season’s positional battle. It may be fair to question if Ty Lue simply lost faith in Covington, who still seemed capable of producing in a defined role. That the same-aged Morris regularly earned playing time over a player that has unequivocally had a better career since entering the league is one reason managers might accept this, but it’s also important to note that Lue almost literally never had Covington on the floor with the likes of George and Leonard and that he was a DNP-CD in the playoffs, as well as big chunks of the regular season. Managers should keep an eye on RoCo during the offseason and re-evaluate his potential closer to their 2023-2024 drafts. In a return to the Clippers, there is little reason to expect a positive change for Covington if history repeats itself. However, conditions are ripe for the Clippers to ship Covington off to another team and recover some assets for a veteran they no longer seem to have any use for. In that scenario, it’s far more likely that the 6’8” forward could be a value-added pick in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. That top-50 upside may be too far gone but players with potential to produce one trey, one steal and one block each night are few and far between, so there are worse ways for fantasy squads to burn one of their last choices.Bones HylandPG, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 56 1 19.4 4.1 10.2 39.9 1.5 1.8 84.3 2.1 5.6 37.1 11.8 2.4 3.1 0.7 0.3 1.5 21-22 DEN 68 3 18.9 3.3 8.2 40.3 1.5 1.8 85.2 1.9 5.1 37.0 10.0 2.7 2.7 0.6 0.3 1.2
ADP: 129/137 (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 216/223 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 199/229 (8/9-cat)
His mother didn’t name him that but the basketball fans have so readily adopted his nickname that it’s completely understandable if most don’t know that Bones Hyland is actually Nah’Shon. Aside from how undeniably cool it is, one look at Hyland reveals how he got the nickname. With some give or take, the 6’3” scorer is about 170 pounds. This made him a defensive liability in a season split between the Nuggets and Clippers. However, his size allowed for some incredible burst and maneuverability that let Hyland assert himself as a potential game-changing microwave scorer similar to what Lou Williams or Jamal Crawford once were. In some weeks, Hyland was liable to drop consecutive 20-point outings with multiple treys, assists and even a steal or two. Some off-court issues became more notable when they happened in front of cameras and Hyland earned a bit of a negative wrap for those moments, which also caused him to experience some volatility in playing time with both teams.
Had there been more consistency, Hyland seemed set to claim a larger role in the league this past season. As a result, he may see a boost in draft valuation next season and could prove to be worth a late round flier. It’s hard to recommend any more optimism than that since Hyland is notably part of a crowded rotation and may still have some growing to do before he settles into what could be a long career if things work out.Amir CoffeyPF, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 50 9 12.5 1.1 2.9 38.6 1.0 1.3 77.8 0.2 0.8 27.5 3.4 1.1 1.1 0.1 0.1 0.4 21-22 LAC 68 29 22.4 2.9 6.5 44.6 1.5 1.7 86.1 1.3 3.6 36.5 8.6 2.7 1.8 0.6 0.2 0.6 20-21 LAC 44 1 9.0 1.0 2.3 43.7 0.6 0.9 71.1 0.5 1.3 41.1 3.2 1.0 0.5 0.2 0.0 0.3
ADP: N/A/N/A (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 405/412 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 494/501 (8/9-cat)
Clippers fans and fantasy managers got to know Amir Coffey pretty well in the 2021-2022 season as he spent a third of the season in the starting lineup and was generally a prominent member of the rotation that year. That playing time dissipated in the 2022-2023 season. A few infrequent appearances in the rotation during the early season turned into consistently low or non-existent minutes in short order. Coffey simply wasn’t on any fantasy radars this season and that makes it hard to place his value in the future. It wasn’t that long ago that he was stringing together consecutive weeks of standard league value with solid counting stats and efficiency, so there is some upside for the 25 year-old here. Don’t count on it on draft night, though.Moussa DiabatePF, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 22 1 8.9 1.1 2.1 51.1 0.5 0.7 62.5 0.0 0.1 50.0 2.7 2.3 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.4
ADP: N/A/N/A (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 434/427 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 442/433 (8/9-cat)
After being picked in the second round of the 2022 NBA Draft, Moussa Diabate spent most of his rookie season split between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Ontario Clippers of the G League. As a two-way player for the Clippers, his appearances in the pros were inconsistent and made him a non-entity in fantasy circles except perhaps the most hardcore dynasty leagues. However, Diabate did produce a couple of intriguing games when given playing time. After being named to the G League All-Rookie team, Diabate put the finishing touches on a prospect resume that includes potentially valuable production in key areas like blocks, boards, field goal percentage and steals. At only 21 years old, there is tons of time for Diabate to grow and it often takes several years for bigs to truly arrive in the league. Next year isn’t likely to be when it happens but with the right coaching, Diabate could blossom into a fantasy asset.Brandon Boston Jr.SG, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 22 1 11.3 2.3 5.5 41.8 1.3 1.7 76.3 0.5 1.3 41.4 6.5 1.4 0.9 0.4 0.0 0.5 21-22 LAC 50 14.4 2.3 6.2 37.7 1.1 1.4 83.8 0.7 2.2 31.2 6.5 2.1 0.9 0.5 0.2 0.6
ADP: N/A/N/A (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 424/426 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 437/438 (8/9-cat)
Second year forward Brandon Boston Jr. was a blue chip prospect entering college but barely made it into the back end of the 2021 NBA Draft after a so-so year with the Kentucky Wildcats. It was a classic case of “the man” in the amateur ranks learning to adapt to a bunch of his peers at the next level. The blue chip talent is still there and Boston has the physicality of an NBA player but his two-year career stands as testament to his long-term development path. Coach Lue may take the training wheels off with increasing regularity moving forward but results may vary. Boston has certainly proven willing and sometimes even able to make tough shots but needs to round out his game. Until he can produce more than just points for fantasy managers or NBA teams or until he can do so more consistently, Boston is likely to be on the fringes of the roster. Managers shouldn’t dwell on a potential waiver add or draft pick until he gets certified as a rotation player.Jason PrestonPG, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 14 0 8.9 1.3 2.9 43.9 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.4 1.3 27.8 2.9 1.6 1.9 0.1 0.0 0.7 21-22 LAC 0 0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
ADP: N/A/N/A (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 466/479 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 476/496 (8/9-cat)
Remember a few years ago when an almost completely unknown player made a name for himself in March Madness and ended up getting drafted as a result of that momentum? That was Jason Preston, the man who first captured the attention of basketball fans for his story as a non-recruited high school player that became a three-year starter on a competitive Division 1 program in a relatively strong conference. That’s a lot of information about the college career of a player that wasn’t drafted this year, right? Well, Preston just had his rookie season after missing his true rookie season with a right foot injury. For a player who was already working on a developmental arc that was well beyond what had ever been projected at previous stages in his career, Preston shouldn’t have been held to a high standard. Though he showed great potential as a pass-first floor general with great positional size, solid shooting and defense, Preston had to jump the double obstacle of a major injury recovery while adapting to the speed and physicality of a much more intense brand of basketball than he once knew. Give him another year of development before checking in on his potential as a fantasy contributor, although some dynasty managers may start to pay attention if Preston registers a strong NBA Summer League performance.Xavier MoonSG, Los Angeles Clippers
Season Team GP GS MPG FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% PTS REB AST STL BLK TO 22-23 LAC 4 0 5.0 0.8 2.3 33.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.8 33.3 1.8 0.8 1.3 0.0 0.0 0.3 21-22 LAC 9 12.3 1.9 4.4 42.5 0.3 0.6 60.0 0.4 1.2 36.4 4.6 1.2 1.9 0.7 0.2 0.4
ADP: N/A/N/A (Yahoo/ESPN) | Total Value: 522/518 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 518/515 (8/9-cat)
Despite a couple of seasons of NBA experience, Xavier Moon hasn’t had many shining moments. In fact, he’s hardly had any moments at all in the big leagues. At 28 years old, he is in his physical prime but will need to show off a signature skill or two in order to crack the next level on a more regular basis than his 14 games in across two seasons. For context, Moon found his way to the Clippers via the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s Edmonton Stingers and is about as unknown as an undrafted 28 year-old prospect on a two-way deal can be. Regardless, Moon has more than proved himself in the minors with two consecutive G League seasons at 20-plus points per game with better than a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, career shooting slashes that border on 50-40-90 and by averaging more than one block and steal per game in his most recent season. While Moon does seem to have all the necessary attributes of a role player at the next level and some very marketable skills, he is relatively undersized at 6’2” and 165 pounds while lacking the sort of notoriety that can earn him more attention in a very demanding league. The odds aren’t in his favor but Moon’s story makes him the sort of player it feels good to cheer for. Do that instead of drafting him and hope that one day he can bring even half of his G League averages to the pros.
Three players were in consideration for this award for entirely different reasons. Kawhi Leonard earned consideration as the best player on the team but didn’t get the nod because of his terrible start to the season and the general frustration of rostering a player with injury management concerns. Ivica Zubac was in the running for remarkable consistency as a standard league asset with output that can almost be written in pen before the games even take place. However, Paul George was the real fantasy star of the team. Unlike his more talented teammate, PG-13 was there when it counted for fantasy managers. In the immediate post-draft period and leading up to the finals of head-to-head fantasy playoffs, George was registering some really impressive games. While there are some justifiable complaints about his overall games played totals, particularly for those that play to the end of the regular season, George was the best option among a very small group of potential candidates. Another early round per game valuation cements George’s continued status as a premier wing option in fantasy basketball and a worthy choice for this selection.
When a player falls from top-50 to top-200 status in the span of about 6-to-12 months, it’s noteworthy. That’s why Robert Covington gets the nod here, even though he actually outranked his positional rival that got exponentially more playing time at season’s end. To be blunt — and to paraphrase NFL coach Dennis Green — Marcus Morris Sr. was who we thought he was. It matters more that a player who has proven capable of elite fantasy contributions was often benched in favor of one with worse results. Their ADP reflected this at the start of the season. Covington registered a higher draft range but also likely found his way to waiver wires much quicker than Morris, who returned several weeks of solid production before also likely being dropped. That Covington was typically drafted in 12-team range proves that there was a standard he failed to achieve this season after failing to register a comparable number in the final rankings, though thankfully managers didn’t invest too much in his success. That draft range was a drastic understatement of his ceiling, which may have caused some managers to think of RoCo as a draft day steal. His final results proved that he was anything but. Who knows what next year will bring? Those that got burned this year probably won’t wait to find out.
One To Watch
Covington almost got this one too. However, readers probably won’t appreciate me harping on RoCo’s lost value any longer than I already have, so this one goes to Terance Mann. Fans have already been treated to clutch performances and at least a full season of reliable rotation play. They missed out on the full Mann experience this year due to a rotating cast of point guards but the traditional swingman proved capable of shifting down and using his 6’5”, 215-pound frame to bully opposing floor generals while creating for others. If a real opportunity comes to fruition for the soon-to-be fifth year player, it’s possible that Mann breaks into the standard league conversation as a regular contributor. As previously mentioned, treading water will leave him in the deep league zone. The potential to break that barrier for the first time in his career makes Mann one to watch.
One Burning Question
The Clippers have been singular in their mission for a championship for years and that makes the question quite obvious: is next year the year? A team with a collection of key players on the wrong side of 30 can only afford to answer no for so long and the answer clearly hasn’t been yes yet. The reasons are obvious but the solutions aren’t so plain. Both stars simultaneously proved their brilliant talent and fading health this season and their supporting cast wasn’t able to keep the ship afloat. The definition of insanity is trying the same thing and expecting different results, so it’s unlikely that the Clippers run it back with the same roster and coach next year. If they do, then there’s little need for any sort of fantasy analysis as the same players will likely achieve similar results in a familiar way. The hope is that the team gives Coach Lue a more diverse collection of the positionally fluid players he so plainly values. On the coaching front, managers are surely hoping that management and the bench coordinate on their priorities when it comes to development versus results. If development is expected to take a back seat on this shortened timeline, then it may be best for all parties involved — the Clippers, fans, fantasy managers and so on — to see some consolidation of talent at the top of the rotation. You know what I mean, right? The sort of players that can win a playoff series when your stars are sidelined.
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