Los Angeles Clippers missed out on the playoffs last season as injuries derailed their hopes but they head into the new campaign with a genuine chance of claiming a first ever championship for the franchise.
Two-time champion and two-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard missed the entirety of the campaign with an ACL injury and fellow star Paul George was limited to just 31 games due to a tendon issue in his elbow.
With the duo now fit, the Clippers should be a real force in the Western Conference in 2022-23.
|What||NBA Season 2022/23|
|Where||USA and Canada|
|When||18th October 2022 - June 2023|
|How to watch||Sky Sports, NBA Pass, bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
|Odds||BOS Celtics +525, GS Warriors +600, LA Clippers +700, MIL Bucks +750, BKN Nets +800|
The returns of Leonard, George and Norman Powell will be huge for the LA outfit as they look to mount a serious postseason challenge.
Leonard won the championship with San Antonio Spurs in 2014 and with Toronto Raptors in 2019, and in both of those successful title bids he was named as the Finals MVP.
The All-Star forward averaged 24.8 points-per-game in the regular season in 2020-21 and then 30.4 points-per-game in the playoffs, and if he can get back to that level over the first few months of the season the Clippers could well emerge as the team to beat in the West.
Leonard will be supported by seven-time All-Star forward George, who averaged 24.3 points-per-game, 6.9 rebounds and career-highs in assists (5.7) and steals (2.2) in his 31 games last season.
George and Leonard had formed a formidable partnership prior to their injury issues and Powell's return to fitness provides a further boost.
The guard arrived in February last season as the Clippers attempted to put together a team capable of challenging in the playoffs after a strong start, despite the injuries to Leonard and George, but he too was struck by injury as a foot issue limited him to just seven appearances.
The Clippers have also strengthened ahead of the new season with the capture of point guard John Wall from Houston Rockets.
Wall sat out last season as he was unhappy at being asked to take on a bench role with the Rockets, who wanted to develop younger guards, but should be a regular starter in LA.
Wall is among the best playmakers in the NBA and should be able to make a real impact with the Clippers as a backcourt partner for Powell.
Leonard, George, Wall, Powell and center Ivica Zubac looks to be the most likely starting line-up for the Clippers but they have plenty of other options, with three-point specialist Luke Kennard, point guard Reggie Morris and forwards Terance Mann and Marcus Morris among those capable of challenging for starting roles.
The Clippers have arguably the most talented roster going into the new season, and in Tyronn Lue they have a coach who knows what it takes to win a championship.
Lue managed to keep the Clippers competitive last season despite their injury issues and they finished in eighth place in the West with a 42-40 overall record, but they ultimately fell short in the play-in tournament.
With a fully-fit roster, the Clippers should be able to claim a top six seed comfortably and Lue is a coach who has been there and done it when it comes to the playoffs.
The 45-year-old won two championships as a player as a member of the 2000 and 2001 LA Lakers team, alongside Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal under the guidance of coach Phil Jackson, and guided Cleveland Cavaliers to the championship as a coach in 2016.
Lue has reached the playoffs in four of his five full seasons as a coach and has one championship, two Finals appearances and one further conference finals appearance on his CV.
The Clippers start the new season with arguably the highlight game in the opening round as they face a short trip to city rivals the Lakers.
They then travel to the Sacramento Kings before a tough first home assignment of the campaign against Phoenix Suns.
Securing a top-six seed in the West will be a minimum requirement for the Clippers and given how strong their roster is they will be expecting to mount a serious challenge for the championship, indeed anything less than an appearance in the Conference Finals will probably see them seeking for a new coach next summer.
The Clippers are rated at +700 to win the championship and +350 to win the Western Conference, while Leonard and George are +1800 and +6000 respectively to be named as the regular season MVP.