The Clippers’ starting small forward Landry Shamet might miss a handful of games with an ankle impingement. The Clippers’ starting lineup with Shamet alongside Pat Beverley, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and Ivica Zubac has been dominant, routinely outplaying opponents on both ends of the court. The rookie Landry has been a big reason for the lineups’ success due to his incredible sharpshooting and off-ball movement. While he’s the weakest link defensively in the group, he hasn’t been awful after a rough start, and offers some shot creation and playmaking as well. His absence will be a real blow, and the Clippers will have difficulty replacing him. The question is: who’s the best option?
There are a bunch of guys who the Clippers could theoretically use as their fifth starter in place of Shamet. In order from what I would consider most to least likely, these players are all possible subs: Garrett Temple, Wilson Chandler, Sindarius Thornwell, Jerome Robinson, and Ty Wallace. Here’s a quick rundown of what each player would bring to the table (and take off it), and why I think they’d be a good (or bad) fit with the starters.
Temple is the easy, simple choice. And he’s probably also the correct one. Temple originally started for the Clippers after the deadline, but Shamet’s hot shooting pushed him into that role, and he’s never looked back. Still, Temple is probably the closest player to a true small forward on the roster. A long 6’6”, Temple has the size and wingspan to guard most wings, and would form a terrific defensive trio with Beverley and Shai. His defense with the Clippers has been exemplary, and he’s yet another player who does a lot of the little things.
The downside with Temple is that his offensive game as a Clipper has been lacking. He’s shooting just 34.9% from the field and 14.9% from three so far, but given that his career averages are 40.7 and 35.1 respectively, he’s likely to revert to his mean sooner or later. He provides less shot creation and playmaking than Shamet does, though he is at least a fairly secure ballhandler if need be, and usually makes the right decisions on offense. Temple is a proven commodity, and has been a positive piece for the Clippers even with his poor shooting. If his shot comes around a bit, he could be a very solid replacement for Shamet indeed.
This is the option I’m most scared of. Chandler has, to put it bluntly, been dreadful as a Clipper. He’s only played in a handful of games for limited minutes, but he looks either unhealthy or very close to washed. His shooting, much like Temple’s, will inevitably get better, but even if it does, he’s just not a small forward any more, and can’t come close to defending the position. Worse, he provides even less playmaking and ballhandling than Temple. Really, the only improvement might be in terms of isolation shot creation, but that’s not what the Clippers’ starting unit needs anyways.
I’m not sure if Chandler should be in the rotation at all, and while it would be cool to see him team up with Danilo Gallinari again, it just doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards for Chandler this season. Still, he’s a respected, proven veteran, and Doc might go with him, leaving Temple on the bench to keep the core of the reserve unit intact.
At first glance, Sindarius seems like an out-of-left-field choice to replace Shamet. After all, Sindarius has barely played this season outside of blowouts and specific defense-only situations, and his offensive game remains, to put it politely, a massive work in progress. The reason why I have him even this “high” on the list is that starting him would leave Temple and Chandler on the bench, and Doc has shown a preference to upset the apple cart in rotations as little as possible this year. Moving one of them to the starting unit would mean another player would have to fill in off the bench, shaking up two different squads. Outside of that more meta reason, there’s Sindarius’ defense, which remains as pesky and energetic as ever. While shorter than Temple, Sindarius is bigger and stronger, and he’s a guy who can guard bigger wings in the post without a problem.
The reason against Thornwell, of course, is that offensive game. Right now, he can’t shoot, dribble, or make plays for others at an NBA level, which is an issue. He can finish around the basket well enough, but the Clippers probably need more offense from their 5th starter than that, especially with Zubac ineffective around the rim due to his injured hands. Sin is an intriguing option, and I’d probably still rather see him than Chandler because of his defense, but the offense makes this a no-go.
It’s no secret that I’m a Ty Wallace fan. I highly value his defense, versatility, ballhandling, ability to push the pace on offense, and decision-making on both ends of the court. The Clippers’ bench, great as it is, has been at it’s best with Ty Wallace as a part of it this season. He does every little thing that the Clippers need from their 9th or 10th man, and does them well. The lineup data backs Wallace as a valuable piece to the team, as does the eye test.
Unfortunately, Wallace has seemingly been in the dog house much of the past few months. His inability to shoot threes and his little floaters and push shots around the rim not falling have relegated him to the deep bench, and he hasn’t played at all in the last five games. Like Thornwell, his inability to shoot makes him a poor fit for the starting group, though he does at least offer some tertiary ballhandling and creation. He’s also a bit undersized to play small forward, though he’s not all that smaller than Landry himself. I’d be interested to see Ty fill the spot, but I highly doubt he will. At the very least, if Temple moves to the starting lineup (or Chandler, for that matter), I’d love to see Ty reclaim his spot on the Clippers’ reserve unit.
Judging by my completely apocryphal analysis, Jerome is the player that Clippers’ fans most want to see replace Shamet. On one hand, it makes sense. Jerome is a rookie guard who can shoot the ball, much like Shamet, and he hasn’t played much this season. It would seem a natural fit to stick him in the Shamet-shaped hole. On the other hand, giving Jerome the starting role would be a dubious decision.
Jerome has only played in two of the Clippers’ last 15 games, and has received only 228 minutes this season as a whole. He has no chemistry with any of the new Clippers, and hasn’t played extended minutes with any of the starters. While Jerome did play well in the G-League, there’s been no real sign that the Clippers consider him ready for NBA rotation minutes. Considering the playoffs are coming soon, and every game is important for seeding, it would be questionable to stick Jerome in such a demanding role. It’s possible he gets a few minutes off the bench with Shamet out, but I would be blown away if he was given the opportunity to start.
Well, Clipper nation, what do you think? Who should start for Landry Shamet in his absence, and who do you think Doc will start?