Last week, the Clippers crossed the official mid-point of their 82-game regular season, triumphing against the Cleveland Cavaliers in their 41st game to improve to 28-13 on the season (they’ve since won two more games).
To check in on how each of the Clippers have done through the first half of the 2019-20 season, The Lob, The Jam, The Podcast hosts Robert Flom and Shapan Debnath have joined me to offer one-sentence grades for each Clippers player.
Patrick Beverley: B
Expectation: “Rather than being a Swiss army knife, the Clippers now need Pat to be their day-in, day-out full-time point guard.” (Patrick Beverley has earned his spot, Lucas Hann 9/24/2019)
Lucas Hann: B+. Beverley had a slow start to the season, but there three-point shot started to fall in December and he’s averaging over 7 assists per game in January, demonstrating that he can be the point guard this team needs.
Robert Flom: B+. Pat started off the season ice cold from three, but a shooting resurgence lately plus his usual rebounding, playmaking, and defense means yet another strong season from the ferocious point guard.
Shapan Debnath: B-. Pat has done a lot of intangibles this year and has an increased role in Doc’s offense currently, but he had to recover some from what was a not so great shooting stretch.
Amir Coffey: C
Expectations: “Coffey will likely spend much of his time in Ontario with the Agua Caliente Clippers, and there, he should dominate.” (2019-2020 Player Previews: Amir Coffey, Robert Flom 10/3/2019)
Lucas Hann: C+. It’s hard to lean too hard in either direction with Coffey, who missed most of the G-League season to date with a wrist injury, and has been solid but unspectacular since returning.
Robert Flom: C. Look, nobody expected anything from Amir Coffey this season in the NBA, and that’s exactly what he’s given the Clippers so far.
Shapan Debnath: C. Uh C is for Coffey. Liked him in Summer League, hard to say much else.
Paul George: B+
Expectations: “When George is ready, the team gets a top-tier two-way player.” (2019-2020 Player Previews: Paul George, Eric Patten 10/15/2019)
Lucas Hann: A-. It’s important to be patient with George, who is returning from injury, but while he’s been quite good I still need to take a few points off because there’s definitely room to grow in the second half of the season.
Robert Flom: B. George started off the season scorching hot, but his missing much of the season to this point combined with a dip in efficiency and a spike in turnovers makes for a merely good campaign rater than a great one.
Shapan Debnath: B. His torrid offensive play was not going to last but I imagine him averaging out on that side, hoping with some more legs he’ll get better on defense.
JaMychal Green: B-
Expectations: “He is going to be a difference maker this season and will be a key cog in the Clips championship pursuits this season.” (JaMychal Green is the Man, Chris Murch 10/17/2019)
Lucas Hann: C. This might be more due to circumstances outside his control (minutes and injuries), but JaMychal simply hasn’t been as important as I had hoped—even shooting poorly (34.8%) in the opportunities he has gotten.
Robert Flom: B+. JaMyke gets dinged for his lack of availability and for being a bit streaky from deep, but his defense, rebounding, and spacing are hugely important to this Clippers’ team.
Shapan Debnath: B. JMyke isn’t shooting like he did last season, but he’s a rugged presence the Clippers have needed, and his willingness to shoot good open shots still pays dividends for the team’s spacing. Remains an underrated piece.
Maurice Harkless: B
Expectations: “This situation simply allows Harkless to maintain a relatively low minutes total like he did last year while providing insurance in the event that either Leonard or George misses some games.” (Moe Harkless is a luxury in the forward rotation, Sabreena Merchant 10/8/2019)
Lucas Hann: B. Moe hasn’t had a bad year, but his weaknesses offensively have really shown, and the team is 4.5 points worse per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor than off it despite playing 521 of his 956 minutes alongside Kawhi Leonard.
Robert Flom: B+. Moe might be a bit more inconsistent and less impactful than Clippers’ fans would like on offense, but his defensive aptitude is a major reason why the Clips have been so good on that end overall.
Shapan Debnath: B. I love the intangibles Mo brings on defense, he’s super heady and picks great spots. If only he could shoot reliably.
Montrezl Harrell: B
Expectations: “Montrezl Harrell is expected to be one of the best players and leading offensive options on a championship-level roster.” (2019-2020 Player Preview: Montrezl Harrell, Robert Flom 10/18/2019)
Lucas Hann: B+. I’ve been critical of Trez, especially as other teams have increasingly exploited his poor defensive positioning in recent weeks, but I can’t be too hard on a guy whose wrecking-ball interior scoring has helped the Clippers win a lot of games without Kawhi Leonard and/or Paul George.
Robert Flom: B. Trez’s energy and interior scoring remain unimpeachable, but his poor defense has been one of the primary reasons behind the Clippers defensive issues this season.
Shapan Debnath: B. I probably should not rank Trez much lower than Lou, but his defensive deficiencies are more glaring at a position of need than his pick and roll buddy. Continues to flourish offensively, especially as a one on one guy.
Mfiondu Kabengele: C+
Expectations: “As an NBA prospect, he remains somewhat unrefined, and for a team with championship aspirations isn’t likely to see the floor a lot in 2019-20.” (2019-2020 Player Preview: Mfiondu Kabengele, Eric Patten 10/21/2019)
Lucas Hann: B. Kabengele wasn’t expected to be in the rotation, but he’s only shooting 32% from three for Agua Caliente and it’s a little disappointing that the coaching staff doesn’t even appear ready to trust him to fill in when players ahead of him are injured.
Robert Flom: C+. Fi is far away from being a legit NBA player due to his poor defense and court awareness, but his shot is pure, and his unrepentant chucking has made him an enjoyable victory cigar.
Shapan Debnath: C. G-league stats don’t count, has a lot of holes in his game, but interesting prospect.
Kawhi Leonard: A
Expectations: “For Leonard, this is a grand chance to establish himself as the consensus best player in the league with another championship run.” (Kawhi Leonard is Here, Ladies and Gentlemen, Chris Murch 10/7/2019)
Lucas Hann: A. Kawhi Leonard is the best player in the NBA.
Robert Flom: A. The missed games hurt, as do the turnovers and the poor shooting stretch earlier in the season, but Kawhi Leonard has been mostly spectacular for the Clips this season, and has been one of the best players in the NBA.
Shapan Debnath: A-. Kawhi is every bit as good as I thought he’d be, and after a brief lull he’s really picked up his game.
Terance Mann: B-
Expectations: “So, what are the reasonable expectations? Mild usefulness, preferably demonstrated in the waning minutes of one-sided — ahem, Clippers-sided — blowouts.” (Terance Mann is Guaranteed (At Least Two Seasons), Thomas Wood 9/25/2019)
Lucas Hann: B+. Mann hasn’t blown anyone away, but even being a serviceable third-string option is a nice outcome for a second-round rookie.
Robert Flom: C+. This might seem high considering all the hype around Mann in preseason, but we have to remember that he’s still a second round rookie learning a new position.
Shapan Debnath: C+. Has shown flashes as someone who could contribute in the future, but that future does not particularly look like this season.
Rodney McGruder: D+
Expectations: “The Clippers want to maintain their scrappy mentality from a year ago, and McGruder perfectly fits that mold.” (Rodney McGruder was born to be a Clipper, Sabreena Merchant 10/1/2019)
Lucas Hann: D. There hasn’t been a Clipper more disappointing than Rodney this year, who has shot a putrid 28% from deep while failing to bring the gritty defense we had expected based on his time in Miami.
Robert Flom: D. McGruder has been invisible on offense this year except for when he’s bricking open threes, and that lack of impact isn’t enough to make up for his solid defense.
Shapan Debnath: C-. I like how he gets at it on defense, but man his shot has also been trash this season.
Johnathon Motley: C
Expectations: “He has some skills that should translate to the NBA, but it’s difficult to imagine he gets a ton of opportunities with the Clippers this season.” (2019-2020 Player Preview: Johnathon Motley, Taylor C. Smith 10/11/2019)
Lucas Hann: B. The Clippers haven’t yet needed to call on Motley, and there’s no reason to believe he’s made the jump to being a rotation-caliber center, but it’s still nice to know that he’s there if Ivica Zubac or Montrezl Harrell get banged up.
Robert Flom: C-. Motley wasn’t really predicted to play much this year, but 17 minutes through over half the season considering how many injuries the Clippers had shows how little the Clips trust Motley in real games.
Shapan Debnath: C. Could probably average some nice counting stats on a lottery team.
Patrick Patterson: B
Expectations: “I expect Pat to average around eight minutes a game and only appear in around 50% of the Clippers’ contests, if that. Anything more is found gold.” (Patrick Patterson Will Provide Solid Depth, Chris Murch 10/10/2019)
Lucas Hann: B. I wish I could say Patterson has been good enough that it makes sense that he’s taking minutes away from JaMychal Green, but he’s been merely solid; enough for a B in a comeback year on a minimum-salary deal, but not enough to seem like a guy who should be a big piece of the playoff rotation.
Robert Flom: A. Doc probably plays Patterson too much, but that doesn’t take away from what’s been a shockingly competent campaign from Patterson, who has demonstrated legit ability to hit outside shots and play solid post defense.
Shapan Debnath: C. It’s not his fault he’s been featured more in the rotation than he probably should, he’s a decent poor man version of JaMychal Green if we’re in a pinch.
Jerome Robinson: D+
Expectations: “On the court, Jerome will need to hit shots, make plays as a secondary or tertiary ballhandler, and not be a liability on defense.” (2019-2020 Player Preview: Jerome Robinson, Robert Flom 10/14/2019)
Lucas Hann: C-. This feels lenient, but despite a total lack of confidence in his shot, Robinson has gotten a little more comfortable as the season has gone along and held his ground defensively when Doc Rivers has turned to him, a crucial attribute for a young guard.
Robert Flom: C-. On one hand, Jerome has been a legitimately competent defensive player this season, and has shown flashes of playmaking; on the other hand, he has utterly failed as a scorer, and that was the skill that got him drafted in the lottery.
Shapan Debnath: D. Dude can’t shoot. A shame because he’s improved in a lot of little things, but he really can’t shoot.
Landry Shamet: C
Expectations: “Much will be asked of Landry Shamet in his second year. His brand of shoot-then-shoot-again-then-shoot-some-more-then-maybe-run-a-pick-and-roll basketball should form a delectable pairing with Kawhi Leonard’s and Paul George’s signature wines.” (Landry Shamet is on the Radar, Thomas Wood 10/2/2019)
Lucas Hann: C. Obviously we’re grading on a curve here, but some minor injuries and some serious sophomore slumping has left Shamet at a disappointing 37% from deep with major regression on the defensive end.
Robert Flom: C-. Shamet’s numbers are down almost across the board from his impressive rookie campaign, and his struggles offensively are an underrated reason for the Clips’ inconsistencies on that end.
Shapan Debnath: C. There’s hope that Sham is also turning the corner, but his worth really goes with his shot, which has been fairly off this season.
Derrick Walton, Jr.: A
Expectations: “The Clippers might be thin at point guard, which gives Walton a leg up, but he’s still facing an uphill climb to make the Clippers’ NBA roster this year. Realistically, he will probably be Agua Caliente’s starting point guard, and might get a brief cup of coffee at some point in LA.” (Derrick Walton Jr. is Likely Destined for Agua Caliente, Robert Flom 9/27/2019)
Lucas Hann: A. There is not much more that you could ask from Walton, who has been remarkably solid filling in for injured guards despite originally being a question mark to even make the team.
Robert Flom: A+. Considering that he was a longshot to make the roster as a Summer League invite, Walton helping the Clippers win actual games in the regular season is nothing other than a massive win.
Shapan Debnath: A. How can you not be hyped for this guy? He’s a healthy scratch on a healthy squad, but he really has contributed in a pinch and seems like a nice guy to plug for spot minutes if one of our guards is hurt.
Lou Williams: A-
Expectations: “Williams is going to be exactly who we think he will be: a “professional” scorer, playmaker off the pick-and-roll, and a no-nonsense leader.” (Lou Williams is an Electric Scorer and Locker Room Leader, Eric Patten 9/30/2019)
Lucas Hann: A. Yeah, Lou has defensive shortcomings, but he’s filling the role that’s asked of him as well as anyone has ever filled it: scoring an efficient 20 points per game off of the bench while adding a team-best 6.2 assists per game.
Robert Flom: A-. The defense remains rough, and the turnovers have mounted this year, but Lou’s playmaking, scoring, and clutch shotmaking have been as invaluable as ever.
Shapan Debnath: B+. Lou has turned it on recently, and continues to be everything this team needs him to be.
Ivica Zubac: B+
Expectations: “He’s going to be tasked with protecting the rim and cleaning the defensive glass while setting solid screens and serving as a capable roll man on the other end of the floor.” (2019-2020 Player Preview: Ivica Zubac, Taylor C. Smith 10/16/2019)
Lucas Hann: B+. Zu’s play this season has left me with two (somewhat) contradicting conclusions: that he’s a solid starting center in the NBA with developing skills on both ends, and that his lack of versatility leave the Clippers in need of another option to close games at center in the playoffs.
Robert Flom: A-. Big Zu is a little limited offensively, but he’s made massive strides defensively and boasts some of the better advanced metrics on the Clippers while filling his role beautifully.
Shapan Debnath: B+. I hate to say it, but “star in his role.” If only we could reliably expand that role, might be asking for too much.