Before it became public that Kawhi Leonard would likely miss a significant portion of the 2021-22 NBA season recovering from ACL surgery, the LA Clippers had the 3rd highest odds at 2022 NBA title. Understandably, the optimism surrounding the Clippers' 2022 title chances has decreased with the news of Kawhi's injury; however, the pessimism might be overdone.
After opening their off-season with the league's 3rd best odds at the 2022 title, the Clippers have dropped as low as 8th on BetMGM's latest rankings, with an 18-1 chance at hoisting the Larry O'Brian trophy next summer. The logic is of course tied to the possibility that Kawhi Leonard could potentially miss the entirety of the 2021-22 NBA season, or perhaps even leave the Clippers for another team. While these concerns are valid, especially those surrounding Kawhi's injury, the Clippers' latest playoff run should warrant some more confidence in their title chances for next season.
While it is fair to conclude that the Clippers will not win the 2022 NBA Championship if Kawhi Leonard is not healthy in time for the playoffs, there should be a level of confidence surrounding the team's ability to advantageously position themselves for Kawhi's potential return.
During the 2021 playoffs, the Clippers outscored their opponents by 49 points in the 480 minutes Kawhi Leonard was off the floor. Between Paul George's dominance, and the emergence Terance Mann, the Clippers more than held their own against the top-2 seeds in the Western Conference. If they can replicate that throughout the course of next season, they should position themselves firmly in the playoff picture ahead of Kawhi's hopeful return.