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2018-19 Clippers Exit Interview: Patrick Beverley

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Mr. 94 Feet was the heart and soul of the 2018-19 Clippers. Will Los Angeles be able to hold on to him in free agency?

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

KEY INFORMATION

Name: Patrick Beverley (Mr. 94 Feet)

Age: 31

Years in the NBA: 6

Regular Season Stats:

  • 7.6 points on 40.7 shooting
  • 3.8 assists
  • 5.0 rebounds
  • .9 steals
  • .6 blocks
  • 27.4 minutes per game
  • 78 games played, 49 starts

2018-2019 Salary: $5,027,027

Future Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

SUMMARY

Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley appeared in only 11 games during the 2017-18 season, having suffered a season-ending microfracture and meniscus injury in November 2017. He bounced back strong in 2018-19, averaging 7.6 points, five rebounds and nearly four assists in 27.4 minutes per night in 78 games.

The season started a bit slow for Beverley, who was reported by Andrew Grief of the Los Angeles Times to have struggled finding his role on both ends of the floor. He was rejecting screens on pick-and-roll plays and freelancing on defense, driving Coach Doc Rivers “absolutely insane.”

It took a November benching and a sit-down for Beverley to buy into the team’s game plan. Once he was locked in, Mr. 94 Feet became arguably the Clipper’s most important and valuable asset.

Beverley returned to the Clippers’ starting lineup on January 20 for a battle with the San Antonio Spurs. He did not disappoint. Beverley contributed a season high 18 points in the Clippers’ 103-95 win, along with 12 rebounds, five assists, four steals and one block. In so doing, he became the first player listed 6-1 or shorter to record such a stat line in over 25 seasons.

From January 20 through March 31, 2019 Beverley averaged 9.1 points on 43 percent shooting, 6.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists per contest. The Clippers won 23 of their 33 games in that period, third best in the NBA.

After sitting the first three games in April with a hip injury, Beverley returned to the hardwood with a fervor. In the Clippers’ final regular season game against the Utah Jazz, Beverley scored 14 points on 55.6 percent shooting, including four of seven from distance. He also snatched six rebounds and a steal and dished six assists in just over 21 minutes to help carry the Clippers to a 143-137 overtime win.

(NOTE: The highlights of this particular game are worth sharing in part because it was longtime broadcaster Ralph Lawler’s last regular season assignment, called alongside the always entertaining Bill Walton.)

The NBA Playoffs brought out a “next-level” side of Beverley, one that undoubtedly has increased his value as an unrestricted free agent this off-season. In the Clippers’ first round series against the Golden State Warriors, the diminutive Beverley was a beast on the boards, leading the Clippers with 8 rebounds per game. In three of the six games played he grabbed 10+ rebounds, while in two of those games he logged an impressive 14 rebounds.

Beverley also contributed meaningfully on defense. Over the course of the six-game series, he scored in double figures four times, averaged nearly five assists, and shot 43.3 percent from distance on five attempts per game.

Defensively, Beverley was as effective as one can be against First Team NBA All-Star Kevin Durant, particularly in Games 1 and 2. The two-time All-NBA defender did incredible work off the ball to throw Durant, and the entire Warriors’ offense, off-kilter. Beverley stayed low, bodied up, and did not give Durant an inch. The tightly played defense, along with quite a bit of smack-talking, led to some early series entertainment and ejections.

In fact, Beverley was so effective on Durant during the first two games of the series that the Warriors reportedly sent game tape to the NBA league office in advance of Game 3 complaining about the “legality” of his lockdown defense.

All season Beverley was a pest living rent free in opponents’ heads. He is the type of player every franchise needs, and hopefully will be back in a Clipper uniform come July.

STRENGTHS

1. Defense

Beverley’s hustle, skill, and intensity on defense is the stuff of legends, and was front and center in his individual game this season.

He is notoriously fearless, and stepped up repeatedly to take on the toughest of defensive assignments. Beverley’s efficient handling of the LakersLeBron James on March 4, 2019 was particularly noteworthy. Not only did Beverley demand the assignment to defend the much larger James, he held the 6-8 “King” scoreless in 23 possessions, helping the Clippers secure the 113-105 win that effectively knocked the Lakers out of playoff contention.

Lakers’ fans were not happy with Patrick’s pesky defense, filling Staples Center with boos. Patrick, unsurprisingly, gave zero f*cks, and seemed to revel in the negative attention.

Beverley finished the regular season with 2.0 defensive win shares, a career-high .6 blocks per game, and the renewed respect of players and fans alike. Accordingly, it surprised many when Patrick was not named to the all-defensive team, passed over in favor of some more questionable selections (cough - Eric Bledsoe - cough).

Patrick’s reaction to the snub was swift and should fuel his fire for next season.

NBA Hall of Famer Reggie Miller shared his feelings of shock, as well as his ballot.

Recent retiree and future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade also weighed in on the omission, adding valid criticism of the voting process (the award is decided by 100 media members covering the NBA).

Regardless of wrongfully denied accolades, there is no question that Beverley’s dogged defense was a major factor in the Clippers’ success this season.

2. X-Factor

Beverley is one of those unique players who can fill any stat line, in any game. In this way, he is the ultimate “x-factor.”

Beverley can hit from deep. He is a 38 percent 3-point shooter in his career. Over the last four seasons, his percentage has improved to 39.5 percent. In 2018-19, he averaged 1.4 made shots from distance per game and converted on 39.7 percent of his attempts. Success with the long ball helped Patrick log 28 games in double figures for the season.

Beverley can also hurt opponents on the boards. The relatively diminutive baller pulled down 10+ rebounds in eight games during the regular season, and three in the post season.

Although he averaged just under four assists per game, Beverley does have the instincts and skills to facilitate offense.

Beverley’s best facilitating performance was during the Clippers’ heart-wrenching 131-127 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on December 17. The adept ball-handler dished out 11 assists -one short of a career-high- to go along with 10 points, four rebounds, one steal and zero turnovers in 30:54 of play. The performance was one of five double-doubles Patrick had during the season.

3. Tone-Setter, Leader and Mentor

Beverley’s biggest strengths are his leadership and mental toughness. He does not know the meaning of the word quit. Whether down by one point or 31 points, Beverley’s intensity and focus remain consistent. Even in games where his numbers might be deemed unremarkable, he finds ways to make a difference, inspiring and motivating his teammates.

The best illustration of Beverley’s “never say die” attitude and the impact it can have on a team’s psyche was his performance in Game 2 of the first-round playoff series, where he led the Clippers back from a 31-point deficit to a record-breaking win over the Warriors.

Even after fouling out of the game, Patrick was 100 percent locked in, encouraging and guiding his rookie mentees Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet from the sidelines.

WEAKNESSES

Beverley is not the most efficient scorer in the painted area. This season, the veteran only converted on 49 percent of his shot attempts zero to three feet from the rim. This percentage dropped to 38 percent for shot attempts from three to 10 feet from the rim.

His foul shooting could also be better. Beverley shot just 78 percent in 2018-19 from the charity stripe, which isn’t bad, but isn’t great either. He has also had some difficulty creating his own shot. Further developing this part of his game would make him an even stronger offensive weapon and all-around player.

Patrick turns 31 in July. Durability may be an issue moving forward, particularly given how much he leaves on the floor and his history of knee issues.

FUTURE WITH THE CLIPPERS

This off-season marks Patrick’s first time as an unrestricted free agent, and he appears to be enjoying the attention. A number of teams are rumored to have interest in Beverley, including the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls are looking to upgrade from Kris Dunn at the point guard, and Beverley would be a good match. Patrick appears to be open to the possibility, much to the dismay of ClipperNation.

Whether Beverley, a native of Chicago, is seriously considering a move to the Bulls or just acknowledging the franchise’s interest as a negotiation strategy has yet to be seen.

Other teams who could benefit from signing Beverley include:

  • The Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks need a good defender for their backcourt. Beverley would fit that bill. Beverley would also complement Hawk’s star guard Trae Young because he does not need (or want) the ball in his hands all the time.
  • The Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks need a lockdown backcourt defender if they want to seriously compete in the Western Conference next season. They also need a guard who can space the floor on the offensive end so Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis can work their magical pairing.

Beverley would be a good match for Dallas’ needs, but with a max-level salary spot open the Mavericks may be more interested in going after someone like the Hornets’ point guard Kemba Walker in free agency. Nonetheless, Doncic and Beverley created some buzz earlier in the month when Patrick responded to the Slovenian following him on social media:

Clippers fans, of course, desperately want the franchise to hold on to Beverley. He is a fan favorite and widely recognized to be the motor of the team. However, with the potpourri of players available this summer -including Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, and Kyrie Irving- it is possible that the Clippers may need to let him go.

If Beverley is re-signed, there is a possibility he may be relegated to a back-up position, which could be a difficult pill for him to swallow after his success this season. Chicago, Atlanta, or Dallas would present opportunities for him to be a day-one starter.

Additionally, the Clippers may be limited in what they can give up in terms of salary. The front office’s primary goal this off-season is to land two max players, which would leave a mid-level exception for Beverley. If only one max player joins the franchise, they would have the ability to offer Patrick more money, but probably would not want to, in order to keep cap space available for summer 2020.

OVERALL SEASON GRADE: A

Weeks back, I opined that Patrick Beverley was the most valuable player on the Clippers 2018-19 squad. Some readers took exception, but I stand by that statement more than ever. Without Beverley on the floor the Clippers would have been a much different team, with a drastically different season. #TeamPatBevForever