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.
There’s no sugarcoating that it has been a rough week for the Clippers. The team lost three games in a row and lost control of their playoff seeding in the process. On top of that, injuries to Patrick Beverley and Danilo Gallinari cast a cloud over the upcoming postseason.
Luckily for LA, the team still has some veteran leadership, and the steady hand recently has been Garrett Temple. Despite being moved in and out of the starting lineup over the past week due to Beverley’s injury. Temple was the only Clipper to play in all three games and post a positive net rating (plus-2.1). He had a sky-high true shooting percentage of 71.3 even though he had a microscopic usage rate of 12.3 percent, the gold standard of a role player. As the oldest player in the LA locker room, Temple also has entered a leadership role within the team despite having only arrived in February.
“I just like him,” Doc Rivers said after the loss to the Lakers Friday. “He’s a vet, knows how to play, so you just like him. You like him on your team. He’s one of the good guys in the league. I’m glad we have him.”
Lou Williams is a lock to win Sixth Man of the Year. He is the Clippers’ greatest individual offensive engine despite coming off the bench. He inspires fear in opponents because of his clutch-time prowess, it is widely regarded that he is unstoppable going to his left, and he had his best season yet at age 32 largely because of his improved playmaking.
Nevertheless, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Williams in recent games. Opponents have attacked him mercilessly on the defensive end, where he had a hellacious defensive rating of 132.3. That is second-worst on the team, ahead of only his pick-and-roll partner Montrezl Harrell. Williams also had the worst net rating on the team this past week (minus-34.4 per 100 possessions). There was a theory that Williams and Harrell could succeed on offense no matter who was surrounding them, but the absences from the Clipper lineup — especially because Beverley, Gallinari, and JaMychal Green are all shooters — have revealed some limitations. The Clippers also played two of best teams in the league this week (Houston and Golden State), so regression was understandable, but Williams expressed another theory about why the team, and the bench in particularly, have struggled.
Lou Williams on 2 straight #Clippers losses (2/2) - "I think myself and Gallo need to try and do a better job to get the message across to those guys that they have to finish the season out as strong as you can."— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 6, 2019
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As the Clippers have struggled, Gilgeous-Alexander has put up some of his best numbers of the season. Over the last 10 games, SGA has averaged 15.4 points, 4.6 assists, and 3.6 rebounds, all while leading the team in minutes (31.9 per game). That’s a remarkable burden for a rookie to bear, especially considering that no other playoff team is starting a first-year point guard. (Detroit and Brooklyn both start rookies as well, but Bruce Brown and Rodions Kurucs don’t have the same level of responsibility as Shai.)
Gilgeous-Alexander’s efficiency has also been improved over this recent stretch. He is shooting 51.7 percent from the field, 33.3 percent on threes, and 79.4 percent from the foul line. However, Rivers pointed out that SGA’s scoring hasn’t helped the team excel on the offensive end. “He’s played great, but he also is the point guard too. So as well as he’s scoring, that’s great, we need him to continue to do that,” Rivers said. “He also has gotta make sure that guys are involved. It’s a lot for a point guard, but he has to feel that.”
On the defensive end, SGA has been more of a force than during his midseason swoon. He’s back to using his length to contest shots, even recovering to get blocks from behind after getting beat. It will be interesting to see how that translates to the playoffs, when he likely will be tasked with defending Steph Curry or Chris Paul.