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.
The entire Clipper team is playing really well, and it was hard to pick just one player to lead this section this week. However, two things made it impossible not to put Ivica Zubac in this slot.
Shortly after the trade deadline, Clippers consultant Jerry West -- who spent more than 40 years with the Lakers as a player, coach and executive -- got together for dinner with old friends who also had former Laker ties, sources said. He couldn’t believe how Zubac fell into his lap. The Clippers, sources said, never even called the Lakers to inquire about Zubac. The Lakers made the offer and the Clippers gladly accepted.
Sources said those at the dinner table shared a hearty laugh at the Lakers’ expense.
Secondly, Zubac continued my favorite practice of trying to put every opposing defender on a poster, especially Sunday against Memphis. Landry Shamet is a better passer than I realized when he came over from Philadelphia, but his lob passes could use a little work. Fortunately, slightly off-target lobs make for fantastic dunks.
Setting aside the highlights, Zubac continued his efficient streak this week. His injured hands look to be improving as he shot 78 percent from the field and even nailed a couple of jumpers. His performance remains excellent on the defensive end, where the Clippers are 5.5 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor.
Luc Mbah a Moute
Luc Mbah a Moute played 15.3 minutes per game during the first four games of the season for the Clippers, and he was remarkably productive as a reserve. He had a net rating of plus-7.0 despite being limited on offense (for context, Lou Williams has a net rating of plus-6.2 this season), and seemed on his way to rehabbing his value after struggling with a shoulder injury during the back half of 2018-19. Unfortunately, Mbah a Moute’s season officially came to an end Thursday, as he had surgery for his troublesome left knee that caused him to miss the final 78 games of the year.
There was a theory that Mbah a Moute would enable LA to play small, given his experience in those systems in Houston last season, but that never came to fruition. Hopefully, he is able to rehab successfully over the offseason and once again become a quality bench player next year. Mbah a Moute is still the kind of player that would make sense on the Clippers in 2019-20, but how he recovers from injury will dictate what market he has as a free agent. We wish him all the best.
Keep an eye on:
Other than Angel Delgado, who has played a grand total of 15 minutes this year, Sindarius Thornwell has the best defensive rating on the Clippers this season, a sterling 95.5 points allowed per 100 possessions. That is the best defensive rating of any player in the NBA who has appeared in at least 60 games this season. Admittedly, Thornwell only averages 4.7 minutes per game, but he has earned the trust of Doc Rivers to be thrown into situations when the team needs a stop. He’s the opposite of a gunner who comes in when a team is down three late in the game, and Thornwell has succeeded in those moments.
“He’s great, he stays ready,” Rivers said. “He sits next to Sam [Cassell] all game. Every defensive possession, he literally asks what are we doing, why are we doing it. For a young kid, he’s the most engaged kid. It’s great that you feel comfortable putting him in in any situation.”
Thornwell’s offense still lags behind his defense, to the point where he has been a slight net negative in his minutes. However, so long as he has clear strengths, which he absolutely does, Thornwell will find his way onto the floor.