Welcome back to Stock Watch, a regular feature where we’ll check in on which Clippers are playing well, not so hot, or just can’t crack the rotation.
In LA’s 27-point loss to the Nuggets Sunday, Lou Williams played half the game and finished with a plus-minus of plus-one. That means that in the 24 minutes when Williams was not on the floor, the Clippers were outscored by 28 points, over a point per minute.
Williams may not have been in All-Star consideration like his teammates in the LA frontcourt, but he is more integral to the Clippers than any other player on the roster. Over the last two weeks, he has the second-best net rating on the team (plus-9.7) behind Montrezl Harrell. Williams is doing this while sustaining an abnormally high usage rate. He is finishing 30.8 percent of possessions while he’s on the court this season, which would easily be a career high, and his usage rate in the past two weeks is 35.6 percent while he helps the team acclimate to its new roster. In that time, Williams is also posting a scorching true shooting percentage of 67.4 percent, even though he takes relatively few threes within his overall shot profile.
It’s become a trend in LA’s games to see the Clippers fall behind early, both before and after the trade deadline, and then see Williams and Harrell lead the team back once they come off the bench. But even Harrell would admit that Williams is the engine that gets the Clippers going; he creates for himself and others and is instant offense once he takes the floor.
“I imagine it would be like being a baseball manager and you have [Dennis] Eckersley,” Doc Rivers said last week. “That’s how you feel with Lou. When you throw him in, you know offense is coming.”
There was a hope that after the trade deadline, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would feel more settled in his role and be given more opportunities to run the offense without Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley in the starting lineup. Instead, SGA has been less consistent. He has played about three and a half fewer minutes per game and has a net rating of minus-12.0 over the last two weeks. He hasn’t been able to hit the back side of a barn recently; SGA shot 0-for-9 against the Nuggets and only hit 1-of-4 shots in just 15 minutes against Memphis.
The rookie is passing the ball well enough, as his assist percentage has jumped up to 25.2 in February. But with the increased ball-handling, his turnovers have also gone up so that his assist-to-turnover ratio is about even for the last two weeks. Perhaps his offense has suffered because he continues to get tough perimeter defensive assignments. With Landry Shamet replacing Bradley in the starting lineup, SGA gets at least the second-best perimeter player, and oftentimes the best wing because Shamet doesn’t have the bona fides to check them.
Gilgeous-Alexander shows really incredible potential on offense with his ability to read a defense and deliver crisp passes, and on defense with his length. That hope for the future just isn’t helping the Clippers win right now.
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Gallinari’s offensive rating in the last two weeks is 100.5, which feels awfully low for someone who should be one of the best scorers and playmakers on the Clippers. The LA forward has been magnificent at getting to the foul line, and then draining 91 percent of his free throws. He hasn’t been shooting the three ball particularly well, though, as he’s only made 6 of his last 22 and has seen his percentage drop each of the last four months.
It’s hard not to worry about Gallinari’s health, especially after he missed ten games with back spasms. He doesn’t seem to have the same burst driving from the perimeter, and his jump shots have been short the past couple of weeks. Gallinari does have the disservice of playing most of his minutes with the starters instead of Williams and Harrell, and he has still been productive. However, that doesn’t change the fact that he’s not quite at his peak right now.