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LA Clippers 2018-2019 Player Previews: Patrick Beverley is ready to make up for lost time

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After essentially a lost season in 2017-18, Beverley returns as the Clippers’ floor general, and one of the league’s toughest players.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This is the first of Clips Nation’s player preview series, which is starting with the point guards, and will run over the next four weeks. Check back tomorrow for the continuation of the series.

Basic Information:

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 185 lbs

Age: 30 years old

Position: Point guard

NBA experience: 6 years

Key stats: Averaged 12.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.9 assists in 11 games for the Clippers last season. Shot 40.7% on twos on 5.4 attempts per game and 40.0% from three-point range on 5.5 attempts per game.

Contract status: Last season of 4-yr deal originally signed in 2015 with Houston. His 2018-19 salary of $5,027,027 is non-guaranteed (per Spotrac).

Expectations:

Patrick Beverley’s first game as a Clipper was incredible. After being acquired in a summer blockbuster trade that sent Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets, Beverley immediately endeared himself to Clipper fans and sent a message of exactly what he was bringing to Los Angeles—just ask Lonzo Ball.

Beverley was a defensive pest in the season opener, pestering the Lakers—and especially their rookie point guard—into hurried offense, careless turnovers, and even backcourt violations. Even though his box score stats were unremarkable, the new Clipper’s energy was relentless. Beverley was replacing the greatest point guard in franchise history, but he showed no sign of backing down from that challenge, particularly on day one. It set the tone for the type of fight Beverley and the Clippers hoped to bring to their opponents throughout the season.

Unfortunately, Beverley’s season was cut short after only 11 games. He sat out five games in November with soreness in his right knee and was ruled out for the rest of the season after undergoing an arthroscopic lateral meniscus repair and a microfracture surgery on that knee. Beverley has previously had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, but this is the first time his right knee has been severely injured.

In the 11 games Beverley played, he was once again a positive player according to advanced stats, as he has been in every season of his career. Beverley belies traditional statistics, because he doesn’t function as a traditional point guard on offense. He isn’t the primary ball-handler and thus produces posting shockingly low usage and assist rates. Nevertheless, by taking about half of his shots from three-point range, and converting those at about a 40 percent clip, he remains an above-average offensive point guard. In his limited minutes last season, Beverley’s 50.4% effective field goal percentage ranked in the 62nd percentile for his position, per Cleaning the Glass.

On the other end of the floor, Beverley is one of the highest-regarded point guard defenders in the NBA. He was second team All-Defense in 2014 and made the All-Defensive First Team in 2017. The tenacity that has defined Beverley’s career is most apparent on this end of the court. He is consistently among the league leaders in blocks, steals, and offensive rebounds for guards. He also has a very low foul rate, allowing him to stay on the floor in crunch time. Beverley spent three years in Europe after being drafted in the second round, traded, and subsequently cut. His hustle is what brought him back to the NBA, and what has earned him a place in this league.

For the 2018-19 season, Beverley is once again projected to be the starting point guard for the LA Clippers. Depending on how the roster is finalized in the next month, Beverley will be backed up by a combination of Milos Teodosic (meaning Beverley still has to utilize a different alias for hotel check-ins) and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Given the depth at the position, and the likelihood that Lou Williams will also function nominally as a point guard in many bench lineups, Beverley will probably play less than 30 minutes per game, which is what he averaged last season.

Beverley will most likely start alongside Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, and Marcin Gortat, but it’s unclear if this lineup will optimize his effectiveness. Bradley is a limited ball-handler, which would result in a lack of creation on the perimeter, though Harris and Gallinari are perfectly capable of generating their own offense. Gortat is actually a pretty fantastic offensive center, but has thrived for the last five years in Washington as a pick-and-roll partner for John Wall. Beverley doesn’t really run the pick-and-roll. He assists on only 15.1 percent of his teammates’ baskets while he is on the floor.

After watching all 32 of Beverley’s assists for the Clippers, other than concluding that the scorekeepers gave him way too much credit, what’s clear is that Beverley doesn’t naturally pass people open. He can use his strong frame to drive into the lane and then find teammates on cuts or kick out to open shooters. Beverley definitely has a strong feel for the game and excels when the pace is faster, but he cannot and should not be the primary initiator for a successful offense.

Where Beverley makes a lot of sense is as a backcourt partner for Williams, playing off the ball and providing defensive cover for Williams’ well-documented shortcomings. The defensive pairing of Beverley and Bradley has the potential to be suffocating, but the Clippers would likely do better to complement Beverley with someone who has more offensive juice. Beverley also fits well next to an active, bouncy center like Montrezl Harrell, similar to how he thrived playing with Clint Capela and DeAndre Jordan, briefly.

Beverley also has a lot of catching up to do with his Clippers teammates. Since he was injured before the Blake Griffin trade, Beverley has only played with 6 members of the current roster, a number that could drop further before the season starts. His relationship with Gilgeous-Alexander will be one of the more interesting subplots to pay attention to as the year progresses. The Kentucky rookie has a far different pedigree than Beverley did coming out of college, but could likely benefit from the veteran’s toughness and heart.

There is a slight chance that Beverley is himself one of the Clippers’ cuts because his contract is non-guaranteed, but the far more likely scenario is he once again is starting for the team in the season opener. Beverley made his name in Houston as a ruthless, hard-working player, and he was well on his way to establishing the same reputation in Los Angeles before injuries robbed him of that chance. The early end to his debut season has likely been eating up at Beverley all summer, and he’ll once again have something to prove when the season tips off.

The Clippers have high hopes this season to return to the playoffs. With the current roster construction, that journey will only be possible with Patrick Beverley at the helm.