The Clippers will be shorthanded tonight in Oklahoma City, as starting point guard Patrick Beverley will join star wing Kawhi Leonard on the injury report with a strained groin, according to Jovan Buha. Doc Rivers told reporters that either Lou Williams, Landry Shamet, or Derrick Walton, Jr. would start in Beverley’s place—though Buha notes that Shamet was likely already going to start in place of Leonard.
Clippers get JaMychal Green back but lose Kawhi Leonard and Patrick Beverley. Doc said Lou Williams, Landry Shamet or Derrick Walton Jr. will start at PG. Have to think Shamet starts for Kawhi.— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) December 22, 2019
Fortunately, JaMychal Green will return to the lineup after an extended absence. Green’s return not only gives the Clippers an important two-way role player, but having him available at power forward also allows Doc Rivers some lineup flexibility, with the option to use Green and Patrick Patterson at power forward and slide Moe Harkless into some of Kawhi’s vacant small forward minutes.
Still, I expect that Walton and Shamet will move into the starting lineup tonight alongside normal starters Paul George, Harkless, and Ivica Zubac. Shamet was a full-time starter for the Clippers last season and has been Rivers’ go-to on the wings when healthy. Replacing Patrick Beverley is slightly trickier, as the Clippers do not have a traditional point guard on their second unit. Lou Williams, who does most of the distribution work for the bench lineup, is a pure bench scorer who Rivers prefers to leave in that role. At points, Doc has opted to start rookie guard Terance Mann, who the Clippers are transitioning into the point guard position, but Mann is currently on assignment with the Agua Caliente Clippers for the NBA D-League showcase.
While Rivers could shift players out of position and find ways to insert Rodney McGruder, JaMychal Green, or Patrick Patterson, it seems most likely that the choice will come down to disappointing sophomore guard Jerome Robinson and depth point guard Derrick Walton, Jr. Both had opportunities to prove themselves on the Clippers’ recent injury-depleted six-game road trip, and where Robinson faltered, Walton proved himself and seemed to return to Los Angeles as Rivers’ preferred option among the team’s third-string guards. He will likely get the start tonight, although Lou Williams should get a ton of burn as lead guard—and Robinson might still get a shot in some backup shooting guard minutes.