The thing about franchise players is that once they are gone, fans are left scrambling. For Clipper Nation, the loss of the team’s “Big Three” – Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan – as well as perennial fan favorite Austin Rivers, has left fans in a tailspin.
What fandom to join now? Whose jersey to purchase? Where to direct all the unconditional and sometimes irrational love?
To save time, here are my suggestions for the top three Clipper fandoms to join for the 2018-19 season.
1. Patrick Beverley
If you like trash-talking and defensive-minded ballers, Patrick Beverley is your guy.
Mr. 94 Feet gained the admiration of many Clipper fans after his professional-level trolling of highly overrated rookie Lonzo Ball (and his out-spoken, attention-seeking dad) before the 2017-18 season.
Ball went 0-for-2 from the floor and had three assist opportunities on the 29 plays that Patrick Beverley guarded him. Welcome to the NBA pic.twitter.com/E9yS9vo441— FOX Sports Radio1340 (@1340AMFOXSports) October 20, 2017
Beverley only played in 11 games for the Clippers, undergoing season-ending microfracture and meniscus surgery on his right knee in November 2017. However, in that short period he contributed 12.2 points on 40.3% shooting, 4.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. He also made meaningful contributions to the team with his contagious intensity and leadership. He, more than any other player on the squad, embodied the new scrappy, blue-collar identity the Clippers sought to adopt.
Beverley’s agitation of opponents from the bench post-injury was particularly endearing. His performance along-side Austin Rivers during the Clippers’ January 2018 match-up with the Houston Rockets is stuff of legends. You have to love a player who finds ways to contribute even when not on the floor.
Beverley was cleared to return to basketball activities in June and should be a solid contributor in the 2018-19 season. Although his stats don’t necessarily jump off the page, the 29-year-old veteran is an elite defender and natural leader. #TeamPatBev
2. Montrezl Harrell
If you are into no nonsense players who are all grit and grind and retro kicks, look no further than Montrezl Harrell.
Harrell recently signed a two-year, $12 million deal to return to Los Angeles this season.
He seems happy to be back.
#clippernation— Montrezl Harrell (@MONSTATREZZ) July 21, 2018
Harrell was a pleasant and somewhat unsuspected surprise in the 2017-18 season. He was one of the league’s most consistent bench threats, bringing intensity, power and crazy enthusiasm to the hardwood night after night.
At six-foot-eight, Harrell is considered undersized for a center. However, with his athleticism and ability to finish at the rim, he proved a largely successful backup to DeAndre Jordan. Harrell finished the season averaging 11 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block in just 17 minutes per game. Harrell also shot an impressive 63.5% from the floor, third best in the NBA, and had an efficiency rating of 24.7.
Some highlights, just to remind you just exciting Harrell can be:
Harrell is an extremely fun watch and will bring dominance and energy to a frontcourt rotation that already includes Tobias Harris, Luc Mbah a Moute, Marcin Gortat, and Boban Marjanovic. His contributions should be immeasurable. #TeamTrezz
3. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
If you want a brand spanking new Clipper to ooh and ahh over this season, consider becoming a super-fan of newbie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The six-foot-six rookie from Toronto was impressive running the Clippers’ summer league offense a couple weeks back, and showed himself to be quite the versatile defender. He averaged 19 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2.3 steals and a block in 27.8 minutes per game.
The 20-year-old point guard is coming off a strong freshman season with the Kentucky Wildcats, where he put up 14.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 37 games, including 24 starts. He is a great fit for the Clippers: poised, high IQ, comfortable running the high pick-and-roll (Clippers’ bread and butter), solid passing abilities, good court vision, and able to guard multiple positions. More importantly, he WANTS to be a Clipper. Gilgeous-Alexander said to Bleacher Report:
“I met with a bunch of teams in Chicago at the (Draft) Combine, I feel like with the [Clippers] I was the most comfortable right off the bat,”
“I just re-connected with those guys really early. Their whole staff, you start with Doc Rivers, who’s had some really good point guards in the past and guys that I’ve tried to model my game off of a little bit — Chris Paul and (Rajon) Rondo — so he obviously has a great mind and can give me some things and help me be the player I want to be.”
If his summer league performance is any indication, Gilgeous-Alexander is whole-heartedly embracing the opportunity he has been given to make his mark in the NBA. His future should be bright. #TeamSGA
So, who do you think will be the new fan-favorite on the Clippers this season? Who are you most excited to watch?