While there are some indications that he may attempt a return at some point this season, the Clippers will be without Kawhi Leonard for an extended period of time. As the 2x Finals MVP recovers from ACL reconstruction surgery, the team will need to find a way to win games in his absence.
At training camp on Tuesday morning, head coach Ty Lue told the media that his current starting lineup with Kawhi out is Reggie Jackson, Eric Bledsoe, Paul George, Marcus Morris, and Ivica Zubac. While four of the five starters were expected, Eric Bledsoe is the lone surprise.
While many fans and analysts have clamored for Terance Mann to get a shot in the starting lineup, coach Lue will start with the veteran Bledsoe instead. Ironically, the case for starting Mann is similar for Lue's stated reason for starting Bledsoe, and it is the downhill attack that he provides.
Terance Mann showed several flashes last season of his ability to get downhill and kick to shooters; however, this is Bledsoe's primary asset. Mann is a better shooter than Bledsoe, and has more ability to score in the midrange, but Bledsoe's ability to push the pace is something Ty Lue is looking forward to.
When asked how the team can continue generating quality looks from deep in the absence of Kawhi, coach Lue said that playing faster will be key, and Bledsoe's pace should help with that. If Bledsoe remains in the starting lineup, Mann will be tasked with facilitating the 2nd unit.
Surrounded with shooters in the 2nd unit like Kennard, Batum, and Ibaka, once he returns, Mann will have a similar role regardless what unit he plays with. Using his speed and athleticism to create open looks for others has already been a key component of his game, and as he proved in the playoffs, he can score as well.
Ty Lue proved last postseason that he will adjust lineups when necessary, so while this is his first five, it is certainly subject to change. In the meantime, the Clippers have a plethora of lineup options to utilize while they await the return of Kawhi Leonard.