Imagine this scenario: you join a brand new team while they are in the midst of a six game road trip. They have just traded their leading scorer away as well as two other starters, and are fighting for playoff position in the historically tough Western Conference. You are about to play a game in one of the toughest home arenas in the league, in Boston Garden, and you haven’t even practiced with your new team besides a quick walk-through and shootaround that same day. Now that you are in the game, your new team goes down by 28 points. You are either now a starter or playing big minutes off the bench to try to salvage some sort of pride in a big loss. Slowly, you chip away at this lead, and surprisingly, the flow of the team is getting better after the first 24 minutes. Big shots are made by almost everyone, Doc puts trust in you, and after 48 minutes you look up, and you’ve won by 11. If that’s not an absolute roller-coaster of a start on a brand new team, I don’t know what is.
However, when gathering these new players, the front office had this in mind: what players can help us win right now but could also be with us moving forward? Two 21-year-old’s who played big minutes for high-profile teams, and two tough, defensive minded wings who can shoot and bring energy for 20+ minutes.
We all know that three games is a very small sample size to judge players, especially ones who are new to a system and scheme - but so far, we have seen genuine contributions from the new guys who have seen the floor (and should be seeing Wilson Chandler post All-Star Break). Given the way they have been implemented by Doc so far, there is reason to believe they will be big for L.A. moving forward. Let’s break down each individuals games, what they have brought to the table so far, and what the rest of the season could look like for them.
Stats through three games: 13.3 ppg, 3.0 apg, 2.0 rpg in 28 minutes — .500/.563/.875 splits
Has there been a quicker fan favorite in L.A. than Shamet? In what was probably the hardest player to get of any of the trades — given his age, production and shooting ability — Shamet has continued with his hot shooting hand, shooting over 56 percent from three through three games. He seems to be the off-ball wiz the Clips haven’t had since JJ Redick. In learning from him in Philly, Shamet knows how to maneuver through off-ball screens, get to a spot where he can get a small sliver of space, and knock down the J. Doc has run tons of plays through him already. Whether he’s coming off double-screens, down screens from forwards, dribble hand-offs, or guard-to-guard movements, Shamet is fluid and has a knack for getting open. He can also create for himself off the dribble, something that he is even better at than Redick already, and at 6’5” can finish in the paint. Where Doc was running plays for the much-maligned Avery Bradley, who couldn’t shoot from anywhere with any consistency, now he has a younger, taller, and better floor spacer who can hit from anywhere within half court.
It seems as though Shamet will be a key future piece for L.A. He is already starting — replacing Garrett Temple in the lineup after two games, and will more than likely continue to do so for the rest of the season. With pass first guards like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Patrick Beverley, Shamet is going to get a lot of clean looks. While they did play the tanking Suns, this starting lineup of SGA-Bev-Sham-Gallo-Zubac were all above +17 in plus/minus and controlled the game from the tip. This lineup gives the Clips good shooting at the 1-4, a tall, long yet flexible front court and enough defense (although this is an area I’d like to see Sham improve — he’s slight but tall, needs to get better defensively) to let the best bench in the NBA move the needle. This will more than likely be the starting five moving forward and Shamet will be a huge part of that. Expect some big shooting nights from the rook and for him to keep improving.
Stats through three games: 10.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.3 bpg in 20.0 minutes — .526/.846 splits
In what was perhaps one of the more baffling trades of the deadline, the Lakers sold super low on a 21-year-old seven-footer who had already provided them with big games and is a supposed sponge in trying to get better. The Clips gave them Mike Muscala in exchange, and now the Clips have a potential center of the future, while L.A.’s other team has a guy that will probably not be on their roster come next October.
Zu brings a solid two-way game that will only get better. He is quick on his feet, has good hands, has some range and good touch around the rim, a 7’4” wingspan and a body that is already pretty beefy and has potential to get stronger. He is the rim-protector that Gortat was not, and has already shown this with the amount of blocks he has collected. Against the Celtics, he nearly posted a double-double, going for 12 points and nine rebounds. Against the Suns, put up 16 efficient points on four-of-seven shooting. He can finish almost anything around the rim and is a career 77.7 percent free-throw shooter, so sending him to the line is a problem for teams as well.
Zu did get exposed against the Timberwolves and Karl Anthony-Towns, held to only two shots and two points along with only one rebound in 15 minutes. This is where Zu absolutely needs to work on his body and approach. He seemed to shy away from contact, and had no idea how to guard KAT as he went around him, through him, and over him. Getting a more solid, muscular frame will help Zu, as will a better base. If he can bang better in the post, his stature will actually mean something against elite NBA centers. KAT is a bit more agile than most, but he made Zu look silly, and led to an explosion of paint points that had the Clips down 20+ at one point.
Remember, this guy is only 21. However, he is now on a team that wants him here long-term and believes in his ability. He will be a starter for the rest of the season, and will be a key cog for a playoff run this season and beyond. With some added muscle, aggressiveness, and some extension of his shooting range, Zu will continue to get better, and having him on this roster is a huge upgrade over Gortat and Boban.
Stats through three games: 7.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg in 19.7 minutes — .500/.333/.600 splits
The Clips got rid of a bad contract and bad player in Avery Bradley in exchange for one of the most respected players, locker room presences and vets in the league in Garrett Temple, as well as a workhorse in JaMychal Green (more on him in a second). Temple is the definition of a journeyman, now on his eighth team in ten seasons, but has shown improvement every season he has been in the league. He was averaging a career high 9.7 points per game in Memphis this season and is known as a great perimeter defender, stable shooter and overall energy/glue guy who will do what it takes to win.
After being thrown in the starting lineup the first two games, Temple contributed early with a really solid 11 point opening contest against the Celtics. He was a part of the lineup that made the initial run, and had a big dunk, off a beauty of a pass from SGA, that set the tone for the comeback. While he hasn’t reached double digit scoring since, Temples main contributions come at the defensive end, where he can hound 1-3 and is long enough to switch onto nearly anyone. His offensive game revolves around slashing and hitting an open jumper. He’s made three three’s so far and has shown the ability to get open and space the floor. A heady dude, Temple can find little creases in the defense and score in the paint, wing and from beyond the arc. A true glue guy with the skills to go off on some nights, Temple was a big move for L.A.
Temple does sometimes tend to go invisible on the offensive end, and when he does have the ball, sometimes tries to do a little too much. As seen in the Timberwolves game (where Temple as a horrendous -32 in plus/minus), he had two bad turnovers (lets blame early lack of chemistry for those) and was 1-for-4 from the floor. He seemed lost when the Timberwolves tried to switch a big onto him (again Taj Gibson killed L.A.) and was getting caught under screens against Derrick Rose and Josh Okogie. Look, it’s one game but it was enough for Doc to move him to the bench instead of starting him, however him being with the second unit is what’s best. Temple with the 2nd unit can be the slaher/3-and-d guy they need him to be. With Lou and Harrell running the PNR, Temple can be the corner three guy and cutter who Lou can find easily. This was on display against the Suns and it worked to a tee as Temple was open for threes and got easy layups. Moving forward, Temple will be used as so, but don’t be surprised if we see a big game or two from him in these last 23 games. Brought in as a leader and locker-room guy, Temple is perfect for what the Clips need to make a playoff push from a veteran standpoint.
Stats through three games: 7.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg in 20 minutes. .667/.625 splits
JaMychal Green’s play through three games has been quite the pleasant surprise for L.A. An upgrade from the inconsistent Mike Scott, Green is 6’9” with oodles of strength, above-average range and a knack for grabbing rebounds against taller opposition. Green has made more three’s than he’s missed so far, has been rebounding better than some of the other bigs and has been playing good defense so far. After a subpar opening game against Boston, green has been in the green (see what I did there) in plus/minus and playing solid minutes, with 20+ minutes against the Timberwolves and Suns. Green used to torch the Clips when he was on the Grizz with his ability to rebound and shoot and we are certainly glad he’s with us now.
Green is another guy, like all of our newbies, who doesn’t need to have the ball in his hands too much to make an impact. He’s the do-everything energy guy, a la Montrezl Harrell, that can win you game based on sheer hustle and will. Green gets open on the perimeter, knows how to crash the boards and can also pass decently. He can slash well and put the ball on the floor to try to get to the rim and is deceptively athletic. Watch out for some big dunks throughout the next 23 games as Green will catch someone sleeping.
The only issues with Green’s game so far in a Clippers uniform is his fouling and potential to be invisible offensively. In three games, Green has 12 fouls. He is undersized for a four and thus probably has to resort to fouling to keep his man in-front. He’s not particularly quick so staying in front of guards has looked to be a problem as well. All said however, Green fouling isn’t a bad thing given our depth at forward when Luc Mbah a Moute and Chandler come back and adds some toughness to an already tough-minded roster. As long as these fouls aren’t egregious, Green should be giving paint players a hard time. No easy buckets!
As far as the offensive end, I hope we see more T-Wolves, Suns Green instead of Boston but I could see some games where he only attempts one or two shots and has trouble defensively. Moving forward, Green will probably be a 10-15 minute guy, kind of like Scott and can hopefully play solid D and knock down some shots. When Chandler is back in the rotation, it might be a little difficult to find Green some consistent burn, but so far, he has been nothing but impressive and we all hope this trend continues.