For the breakdown of the Clippers’ Bigs, click here.
The Los Angeles Clippers aren’t exactly flush with high-end talent. And, in the modern NBA, wins can be hard to come by if you don’t have that superstar to carry the load.
But, as the roster is currently constructed, the Clippers head into the 2018-19 season as one of the deepest teams in the NBA.
Top-to-bottom, the roster is stocked with contributors and potential impact players. That depth may not bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy, but Los Angeles is built to weather the dog days of the regular season and should have a fresh-legged edge over other teams as they start to gear up for their respective playoff runs.
But how can Doc Rivers and Co. employ that depth?
In a three-part series, and with the help of the offensive and defensive player grades at BBall Index, we’ll break down the Clippers’ roster and look at the best ways for Rivers to employ his unique squad. Starting with the primary ball handlers on the team, we’ll look at the wings and the bigs that Los Angeles employs as well.
As is the theme of the Clippers’ roster, the backcourt runs extremely deep in Los Angeles. Likewise, the ball handlers are one of their strongest units. Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander all possess skill sets that allow them to attack opposing offenses and defenses from a variety of different angles.
Williams, once again, projects to be the offensive hub of the Clippers’ bench. The former Sixth Man of the Year had a career year last season, where he averaged 22.6 points and 5.3 assists spread across 32.8 minutes per game. He should have no problem replicating those numbers this season.
Williams will dominate the ball when he is on the floor, out of necessity and because he is just that good. An offensive whirlwind last season, Williams graded out as a B+ shooter from the perimeter — he hit 35.9 percent of his 518 three-point attempts last season — and placed in the 96th percentile in one-on-one situations and off-the-ball. Williams struggled as a finisher and in terms of his roll gravity, but that is to be expected of a 6-foot-1 guard that weighs in at just 175 pounds.
However, Williams wasn’t only a threat on his own. The dynamic guard found plenty of opportunities to get his teammates the ball and ranked in the 93rd percentile as a playmaker among distributors with at least 2000 minutes played last season and graded out as an A level player overall.
Williams should see a heavy dose of minutes once again, even after the Clippers drafted two new backcourt members and look to return a number of different players from injury. If Los Angeles is set on making a postseason run, Williams will have to lead the charge as their de facto No. 1 option.
Beverley, like Williams, figures to play a prominent role for the Clippers after missing the majority of last season due to injury. However, unlike Williams, the team will look for Beverley make his money on the defensive end.
A hard-nosed defender who will stop at nothing to agitate his opponent, Beverley can be one of the toughest matchups in the NBA when he is in his zone. He graded out as a B+ defender on the perimeter and is willing to do all the dirty work. Beverley is solid on the glass as well; he placed in the 97th and 80th percentile of offensive and defensive rebounders when compared to other guards with at least 2000 minutes played back in 2016.
Beverley has also shown he can be effective with the ball in his hands. He placed in the 91st percentile as a playmaker among other distributors with at least 2000 minutes played in 2016 and managed to average 4.2 assists in the midst of Mike D’Antoni’s Harden-point guard experiment. As the projected starter, he should see heavy minutes right from the jump.
The No. 11 overall pick back in June, Gilgeous-Alexander was impressive this preseason, where he averaged 9.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists in five games. The Kentucky product plays with a high motor, but how will he fair in his first “real” NBA action?
While BBall Index doesn’t have any grade on him just yet, Gilgeous-Alexander looks like a natural fit at the highest level. He has the typical size and length necessary to succeed, he plays hard with a solid base on both offense and defense and he has shown good vision on the floor while limiting his turnovers, which he sometimes struggled to do at Kentucky.
While he is young, the 20-year-old Gilgeous-Alexander could be something special if given the proper environment. He should earn a solid number of minutes from the start of the season, with room to earn more as the year moves along.
While the flashy guard out of Serbia won’t start, Teodosic has the ability to be a good player off the bench for Rivers’ squad.
In just 45 games last season, Teodosic had solid averages of 9.5 points and 4.6 rebounds and flashed the natural and creative passing ability that made him so coveted two seasons ago. He ended the season with a B+ playmaking and was an excellent shooter on the perimeter as well, finishing the season with an A- grade overall.
Teodosic struggled mightily on the defensive end last season and, with the eventual emergence of Gilgeous-Alexander, could find himself lacking for minutes. With such a glut of talented guards, the Clippers could move Teodosic back onto the block as well.
This is the group that will carry Los Angeles for the entire season. The team will go as they do, especially in the case of Williams, and it should be interesting to see how Rivers juggles all of their playing time. Keep on the lookout for part two and three of this series, as we look at the wings and bigs on the Clippers roster as well.