Well would you look at that. We are officially just past the midway point of the 2018-19 NBA season, and the Clippers are on pace to win 47 games. Remember when Westgate Vegas opened up their preseason win lines and had the Clippers at 35.5 wins? Remember when no one in the NBA media gave this team a chance to make the playoffs? Remember when they told you not to count your chickens before they hatch? Yes, I know these are still the Clippers and many, many things can go wrong in the second half of the season. I shouldn’t get too ahead of myself. However, the Clips are playing above expectations and winning consistently with no true “stars.” It’s a far cry from the modern NBA, where stars are expected to team up with stars, and teams are either tanking or playing for a ring.
The Clippers are currently seventh in the hotly contested Western Conference, standing at 24-18, and have weathered the fourth hardest schedule in the NBA so far this season.
It’s safe to say that an overall team grade for this squad would be well above passing but for the sake of this piece, I will be handing out grade’s A+ to F- (Some N/A due to lack of playing time) for all 16 players that have touched the floor so far this season for L.A. Read it and cheer (hopefully)/weep, Clips Nation.
Editor’s Note: All stats are from before the Clippers-Pistons game.
Tobias Harris: B+
Stats: 21 points, 8 rebounds, 2.2 assists per game in 34.1 minutes. 50.2 percent from field, 42.7 percent from three.
Analysis: Harris was expected to take the next step towards becoming an All-Star this season, and he hasn’t disappointed. Averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and all shooting percentages, Harris has become the “star” the Clippers supposedly didn’t have this offseason, and has a puncher’s chance at becoming an All-Star for the first time this season. He provides scoring from all over the floor, and has improved his defense and rebounding. After last season, Doc Rivers wanted Harris to improve upon his ability to playmake and get to the rim, and Harris has responded by getting to the line nearly four times a game (3.8 attempts) and shooting above 50 percent for the season, mostly on calculated drives and pull-up’s. Harris’ game is becoming more well-rounded in every facet and at only 26, should continue to get better.
The reason why Harris is not in the A range is because of a lack of go-to scoring presence in the fourth quarter, and a tendency to disappear sometimes during games. Whether this is the gameplan down the stretch or a slight inability to adapt to his new role as “star,” a bit more consistency from Harris would go a long way.
Danilo Gallinari: A-
Stats: 19.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists per game in 31.6 minutes. 45.6 percent from field, 44.9 percent from three.
Analysis: If Comeback Player of the Year still existed as an award in the NBA, Gallo (and Derrick Rose, sadly) would have some of the better odds to take the crown. After his debut season in L.A. was cut to 21 games due to a litany of injuries, Gallo has returned to being a near 20 and 7 guy who produces efficiently on both ends of the floor. Perhaps the biggest surprise of this season has been his ability to actually stay healthy. Gallo is, after all, a 30-year-old who has played over 70 games in a season only twice in his 11 year career. For him to be averaging career highs in shooting percentage (both field and three), rebounds and being .1 off of his career high scoring average is reminiscent of Lou Williams last season. Gallo has resurrected his career in L.A. this season and is playing some of the best ball of his life.
Gallo gets an A- because of his consistency in all facets, his surprising ability to defend 2-5, and because he came into the season finally in shape and ready to play. Don MacLean was quoted before the season as saying, “If Gallo plays 65 games this season, the Clippers are a playoff team.” So far this prophecy has proven accurate.
Lou Williams: A
Stats: 18.5 points, 4.9 assists, 2.6 rebounds per game in 25.2 minutes. Shooting 42.3 percent from field, 38.2 from three.
Analysis: If we are talking impact, Lou Williams is the most important member of the Clippers. The Clips have been very lucky with injuries so far, sans Luc Mbah A Moute, but when Lou went out for four games in the middle of December, the Clippers went 0-4 and lost by an average of 18 points. The team looked completely out of sorts, as the bench had little distribution and go-to scoring and the Clips’ life vest was absent. Lou can take over in the fourth quarter and win games almost by himself (ranks third in the league in fourth quarter scoring).
Without Lou, this team is nowhere near the top of the Western Conference standings. Although his numbers are down from last season, his overall impact is there, and he continues to be the hero the Clippers need. He is on one of the best contracts in the league, only making $8,000,000 a year, yet produces like a max player. If he can stay healthy the rest of the season, like Gallo, the Clips are going to be hard to beat consistently.
Montrezl Harrell: A-
Stats: 15.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.4 blocks in 25.1 minutes. Shooting 63 percent from field.
Analysis: In doing game recaps for this site, I often find myself running out of ways to explain how great Trez has played this season. An undersized 6’8” center should not be putting up the numbers Trez is this year, but lo and behold, he is a front runner for Most Improved Player of the Year and has dominated second units.
While there are defensive limitations to his game, he brings excellent energy every single night, and gives opposing teams fits. He is averaging career highs across the board and has willed the Clips to several victories. Defenses have not figured out his game yet, as Trez will go around you or through you and scores with efficiency from anywhere within 12 feet. We shouldn’t be surprised after last season’s developments that Trez is putting up these numbers in increased minutes. His impact is huge, and I love him.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: B
Stats: 9.9 points, 2.9 assists, 1 steal in 26.1 minutes. Shooting 48.8 percent from field, 38.3 percent from three
Analysis: The Clippers have a franchise point guard in the making with SGA. He has impressed thus far in his rookie campaign, showcasing skill at getting into the lane, finishing at the rim, using twitchy dribble movements to get past defenders, and using his length on defense to lead the team in steals. He is a total matchup problem on the offensive end, as with his 6’6” frame, is able to shoot over 1’s and 2’s defending him and knock down midrange jumpers consistently.
SGA has hit a bit of a rookie wall of late: his shot isn’t falling, and he has been battling turnover problems. He’s reluctant to shoot down the stretch, and he can’t knock down the three ball with consistency yet. However, the kid is only 20 and has shown enough flashes of a dynamic all-around game to get Clipper fans extremely excited for the future. Even Clipper 2019 FA target Kevin Durant mentioned on Bill Simmons podcast last month his affinity for SGA. He will be the point guard in L.A. for years to come.
Avery Bradley: D-
Stats: 7.5 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists in 29 minutes per game. Shooting 37.9 percent from field and 29.2 from three.
Analysis: Bruh. I could write a whole 1000 word article on how ineffective Bradley has been this season. What is incredibly frustrating about his play is how many minutes he receives. The knock on Doc Rivers over the years has been two-fold: he doesn’t play rookies (thankfully being disproved somewhat this season), and he LOVES his former players. The latter is too true for AB, as he is playing the third-most minutes on the team despite horrible shooting percentages and lack of shot creation. While his defense is solid (seriously, he might be the most overrated “elite” perimeter defender in the league as he is averaging a career-worst 110.2 defensive rating), he never does enough offensively to warrant the playing time he does. He is averaging career-lows across the board and has a PER of 5.1, good for second-worst on the team.
I don’t want to waste precious words on AB’s bad play this season as carpal tunnel is around the corner so just know this… along with the controversy surrounding him and his plummeting trade value, letting AB go for some second-rounders in later years looks pretty solid right now.
Patrick Beverley: C+
Stats: 6.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists in 24.7 minutes per game. Shooting 38.1 percent from field and 35.9 from three.
Analysis: The good news about Beverley is that he gives his all every single time he is on the floor. I rarely find myself saying, “Beverley shouldn’t be on the floor” unless we see a matchup issue. He is starting to shoot the ball better (41.4 percent from three in Dec, 44.4 so far in Jan), and has toned down the fouling on the defensive end. He also limits turnovers and has the ability to rack up assists in any game. Although improvements have come recently, Bev is still averaging career-lows in points and shooting percentages. He can’t score off the dribble with any consistency, and most of his points come from open shots and layups. He also has a tendency to get beat off the dribble by opposing guards and resides in the “overrated” category (again, career low 110.2 defensive rating) along with AB, defensively. His defensive slippage makes sense given his age and injury history, though with the energy and effort he gives every night, he’s usually a positive on the court.
At the end of the day, Bev is a quality veteran who knows how to maneuver within the game at this level on a nightly basis. He looks to finally be fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered last season, and if he can continue to knock down open threes and manage the offense when SGA is off the floor, he will continue to be an asset.
Marcin Gortat: C-
Stats: 5.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 0.59 blocks in 17 minutes per game. Shooting 52.9 percent from field.
Analysis: The Clippers are odd in that they currently have three of their top contributors playing some of the best basketball of their careers, and three other big-minute veterans playing some of their worst. One-year stopgap center Marcin Gortat unfortunately falls in the latter category. The calls for another center have been loud, as the 12-year veteran is averaging his lowest points and rebounds per game this decade, and also his lowest minute total. He isn’t doing much with his 17 minutes, as his defensive rating sits at a paltry 111.6, and has even been a DNP- Coach’s Decision a few times this season because of his inconsistent play.
Gortat’s inability to consistently defend opposing centers without fouling is a problem. He also is slower compared to a lot of bigs in today’s NBA and has trouble defending out to the three-point line. He gets rebounded on with ease and struggles to maintain good defensive position, often getting trapped in a pick-and-roll and having the roll guy get to the rack easily. While he is shooting better than he did last season, his only real quality trait is his ability to set monster screens to get guards open. It’s an asset that is very underrated, and has been huge for Harris and SGA in particular. While the Polish Hammer is starting to show more life in January, let’s hope he doesn’t regress back to his former ways.
Boban Marjanovic: B-
Stats: 6.9 points, 4.3 rebounds 0.57 blocks in 10.7 minutes per game. Shooting 59.8 percent from the field.
Analysis: The Bobinator is a fan favorite and has surprised many with a surprisingly deft touch at the rim given his size. He has also worked on his conditioning and shown an ability to make post moves and finish through contact. Although he’s started a few games this season and had a few big nights, Boban won’t be someone the Clippers rely on barring injury disaster. He can hopefully come in up 20 and hit a few buckets for the fans in attendance.
Boban’s main detraction is his inability to stay with quicker centers and forwards on defense and his pick and roll coverage, usually hacking or getting blown by for easy hoops. He does accrue some blocks, but for all of his positives, Boban can’t play big minutes sadly.
Mike Scott: C+
Stats: 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 14.7 minutes averaged. Shooting 37.7 from field, 35.2 from three.
Analysis: I was a big fan of Scott’s signing this offseason, as Scott has proven to be a solid contributor for multiple teams now, and the Clips got him for cheap. He is known to be a sharpshooter and all-around tough guy who can rebound, push in transition, and score off the bench. Scott started the season hot, shooting 55.6 percent from three and 40.8 percent in October and November respectively, but his numbers have fallen off a cliff since. He shot 28.2 percent from three in December, and has only made one three this month. Scott isn’t really a plus on defense either, so if he isn’t hitting shots, it’s hard to have him out there for long. When Mbah a Moute comes back, there’s a good shot he could supplant Scott in the lineup.
Tyrone Wallace: B
Stats: 3.8 points and 1.6 rebounds in 10 minutes averaged. Shooting 45.2 percent from the field
Analysis: Stats really do not do Wallace justice for his play this season. The ultimate spark plug off the bench, Ty is a guard’s nightmare, as he can defend the full 94 and is long enough to stay with positions 1-3. He also has a deadly floater in the lane, and can finish at the rim at a high level. If it wasn’t for his paltry jumpshot, Wallace could be a 20 minute a game guy with his ability to defend, finish, and energize. I was very glad the Clippers matched the Pelicans’ offer this summer, and I hope Ty can stick with the Clippers for awhile.
Milos Teodosic: B-
Stats: 3.2 points and 2.1 assists in 10 minutes averaged. Shooting 42.5 percent from field and 37 percent from three
Analysis: I feel a bit bad for Milos as he languishes on the Clipper bench this season. In what was seen as a smart move in the 2017 offseason, the Clippers brought over the consensus “best player not on an NBA roster” in Milos on a cheap deal to supplant Chris Paul. Despite an injury-plagued 2017-18 campaign, Milos impressed last year with his ability to pace the Clips offense, throw some crazy passes, and shoot the ball well from deep. The Clippers had a 29-16 record in games Milos played last season.
This year is a different story, however. With the number of guards L.A. has this season, including trying to develop rookie SGA, Milos has been left shuffling the deck. He has played sparingly this season, and that trend looks like it will continue due to his lack of defense. He has actually been able to knock down a decent amount of shots so far this season, and will always provide good pace for the team, but it looks as though Milos will be back in Europe sooner than later.
Sindarius Thornwell: D
Stats: 1.2 points in 5.3 minutes averaged - 26 games played
(Brief) Analysis: I was a proponent of Sin early on, as he impressed in his senior year at South Carolina and showed some two-way potential. I was happy the Clippers traded into the draft in 2017 to grab him, but so far he has been let down by his poor outside shot and lack of offensive game in general. He plays sparingly, mostly for spot defense, and does okay in that regard, but will never be a serious rotation contributor for L.A.
Johnathan Motley: N/A
Stats: 12 points total in 2.8 minutes averaged - 4 games played
(Brief) Analysis: I’m high on Motley’s potential, and the Clippers gave up a box of fruity pebbles for him in the first ever two-way player trade. Having him for insurance for a potential injury down the road is a good play, as he has been burning up the G-League and shown that he can make some buckets in the big leagues.
Luc Mbah a Moute: N/A
Stats: 20 points total in 15.3 minutes averaged - 4 games played
(Brief) Analysis: Has anyone had a sorer knee than Luc? The dude hasn’t played since October with what has been reported as a “Sore Left Knee”. He’s a positive defensively and made a few shots earlier this season, but we honestly don’t know what we’ll get from him when he gets back. Hopefully he can contribute 10+ minutes of solid defense a game for a playoff run.
Jerome Robinson: N/A
Stats: 2.9 points in five minutes averaged - 8 games played
(Brief) Analysis: The 13th pick in June’s draft has yet to make a true impact thus far. Lost in the fold of an abundance of guards and dealing with a lingering knee injury, Robinson has mostly played in the G-League with the Agua Caliente Clippers. In the eight games he has played with L.A., Robinson has made five threes. He is a pure scorer in the mold of a bigger Lou Williams, and has a sweet stroke. He needs to improve his defense and make sure he is healthy enough to play a full schedule of games. Hopefully he can make an impact as a spot shooter when needed.