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L.A. Clippers 2019-20 Player Preview: Patrick Beverley has earned his spot

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There are no doubts about the veteran point guard’s role or ability—but the same can’t be said for his availability.

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - Day 3 - Memphis Grizzlies v LA Clippers Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

This is the first of Clips Nation’s player preview series, which is starting with the point guards, and will run over the next four weeks. Check back tomorrow for the continuation of the series.

Basic Information:

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 185 lbs

Age: 31 years old

Position: Point guard

NBA experience: 7 years

Key stats: Averaged 7.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in 78 games for the Clippers last season. Shot 42.1% on twos on 2.5 attempts per game and 39.7% from three-point range on 3.6 attempts per game.

Contract status: Was re-signed to a new 3-year, $40 million contract this July. He’ll earn $12,345,679 this season.

Expectations:

Ever since his arrival in the Chris Paul trade in June 2017, Patrick Beverley has been part of a relatively equal guard corps for the Clippers. Whether he was sharing the lineup with Milos Teodosic, Austin Rivers, and Lou Williams in his first season, or Williams, Teodosic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Landry Shamet, and (regrettably) Avery Bradley in his second, there always seemed to be a cluster of Clipper guards who shared playing time, all relatively in the same tier as players but with differing strengths and weaknesses.

That isn’t necessarily the case anymore. When the Clippers signed Kawhi Leonard and traded for Paul George this summer, the entire makeup of the team changed. George, when healthy, figures to dominate the shooting guard position for LAC, and the departures of Teodosic (waived in February) and Gilgeous-Alexander (traded for George) leave Beverley as the clear best point guard on the Clippers’ roster. In fact, he’s the only real point guard in their rotation: backup duties will likely be handled by a combination of Lou Williams, a scoring 6th man, and Landry Shamet, who has only played a pure shooter role in his brief NBA career. For extreme depth, the Clippers can turn to second-round rookie wing Terance Mann or two-way contract point guard Derrick Walton Jr. (Note: I forgot about Jerome Robinson when I was writing this, and rather than going back to include him, I think acknowledging that I forgot him demonstrates quite well how viable an option he is.)

Those limited alternatives at point guard mean that Beverley, who started across three positions and served a multitude of roles for the Clippers last season, is now the only point guard on the Clippers’ roster who has a strong body of work playing that position at the professional level. Rather than being a Swiss army knife, the Clippers now need Pat to be their day-in, day-out full-time point guard. There’s no question that he has the ability, especially with the amount off offensive initiators the Clippers can put around him—remember that Beverley was the starting point guard on some excellent Houston Rockets teams. He’s the Clippers’ guy at PG this season, and the entire team, organization, and fanbase has all the reason in the world to be confident in him.

Strengths:

Like I said above, Patrick Beverley was the Clippers’ Swiss army knife last season. A capable ball-handler and initiator, he’s the kind of point guard who thrives playing alongside elite offensive talents (like Williams, George, and Leonard) who can lighten his on-ball scoring and distribution load. As a shooter, Beverley has become a well-established spot-up threat as his career has progressed and he will punish defenses that leave him alone on the perimeter.

The best of Beverley comes in the form of defense and intangibles. An all-NBA caliber defender and one of the most resented/respected hard-working, shit-talking grinders in the league, Pat not only directly helps the team by providing stellar defense against the opponents’ best guard (he showed last year that he could even take on assignments against bigger players like Kevin Durant, but the additions of George, Leonard, and Maurice Harkless make that unlikely this year), but his intensity and leadership make him the heart of the team.

Weaknesses:

In a vacuum, we might consider Pat’s limitations as a primary offensive initiator to be a weakness. But just as was the case when he played alongside James Harden in Houston, having superstars on the wing in LAC actually turns being non-ball-dominant into a strength, making Pat an ideal fit.

So if our expectations for Pat’s role are clear, and our confidence in his abilities strong, what weaknesses are left to have? Availability. Pat played a remarkable 78 games for the Clippers last season, but the year before, he only made 11 appearances before having knee surgery. In four full seasons with the Houston Rockets, Pat averaged 62 games per season. Twenty games (or more!) without Patrick Beverley means 20 games where the Clippers are forced to reckon with their sub-optimal alternatives at point guard full-time. Do you move Lou Williams into a starting role, where he can handle the ball effectively but will be picked on defensively and have his normal off-the-bench offensive impact marginalized? Does Landry Shamet, who has virtually no NBA PG experience, play out of position and move on the ball, taking away his threat as a shooter who is elite at moving without the ball? Or will the Clippers reach deep into their bench, putting untested prospects directly into the fire of starting for a championship-contending team with two All-NBA running mates?

Patrick Beverley won’t show many flaws when he’s on the court, but if he doesn’t stay healthy, his absence will reveal this Clippers roster’s most glaring weakness.