The L.A. Clippers have looked as good as advertised through the first 10 games of the NBA regular season — led by Kawhi Leonard — and they’re about to get even better. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, six-time All-Star Paul George is set to make his debut for the Clippers during the team’s road trip this week.
Los Angeles Clippers All-Star Paul George will make his franchise debut during upcoming roadtrip to Houston (Wednesday) and New Orleans (Thursday), league sources tell ESPN. George and Clippers still deciding on first game. He had been rehabilitating offseason shoulder surgeries.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 12, 2019
The Clippers acquired George in a league-altering, blockbuster trade in July that heavily influenced Leonard’s decision to sign with them over the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors. However, George has yet to play a game in the red, white and blue because of the two shoulder surgeries he underwent this summer.
According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, George plans to make his season debut on Thursday against the New Orleans Pelicans as opposed to Wednesday against the Houston Rockets. While that could mean Clippers fans will have to wait until at least Saturday to see the pairing of Leonard and George together, as Kawhi has consistently sat at least once on every back-to-back this season, it promises to be worth the wait.
As good as the Clippers have looked this season, they’re not nearly as stout as most people expected to be on the defensive end. Through 10 games, they’ve allowed 103.7 points per 100 possessions, which is ranked No. 11 in the NBA — in a rather stunning twist, it’s the Los Angeles Lakers who are leading the league in defensive rating (98.1). Adding George — a four-time All-Defensive teamer and last year’s leader in steals per game — should allow them to switch a lot more on defense with Leonard and George expected to start at the 3 and 4.
The addition of George is also expected to help their 3-point shooting woes. The Clippers are shooting just 32.4% from behind the arc this season, which is ranked No. 24 in the league, and attempting 29.9 3-pointers per game. George, a career 37.8% 3-point shooter, will add a dimension they haven’t had to start the season, especially with Landry Shamet struggling to rediscover his form from last season.
George might not look like like his All-Star self immediately, but the sooner he’s back and getting reps with his new team, the sooner head coach Doc Rivers has an idea of the lineups George looks best with and which players will lose minutes as a result of George’s return.
If George returns to the level he was playing at with the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, when he averaged 28 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.2 steals per game, it would be hard to pick anyone but the Clippers to come out of the Western Conference. Luckily, with George’s return just a few days away, we’ll know how serious the Clippers are sooner rather than later.