The Clippers remain victims of the injury bug, but they got a reprieve from the schedule in the form of three sub-.500 teams. That allowed them to work Patrick Beverley back into the lineup while giving Lou Williams the opportunity to cook in an expanded role.
The team will need Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back sooner than later now that the schedule has turned: Miami, Utah, and Brooklyn are all coming to Staples Center this week. But for now, the Clippers are banking wins and staying above the fray in an increasingly competitive Western Conference.
This week: 3rd | Last week: 3rd
Just as Patrick Beverley was getting comfortable back from injury, Kawhi Leonard sat out Sunday’s game with a lower left leg contusion. He joined Paul George (swollen toe) on the sideline as they cheered on the Clippers to their third straight victory. It remains to be seen when Leonard and George will return. But considering the Clippers play the second of a back-to-back on Monday (part of a stretch of five games over eight days), they might play it safe with their two stars. Even with the disruptions to the lineup, the Clippers have won 14 of their past 18 games.
This week: 3rd | Last week: 4th
Paul George (sore right foot) has missed the last five games and Kawhi Leonard (leg contusion) missed the Clippers’ game against Cleveland on Sunday. And at some point, we may have to worry about the Clippers’ chemistry and continuity again, counting the number of games it’s been since they last had everybody healthy. But this cloud has a silver lining, and that has been the play of Lou Williams.
Through Feb. 2, Williams had averaged just 9.1 points on a true shooting percentage of just 48.4%, shooting poorly inside the arc and barely getting to the free throw line. But over the last six games, Williams has averaged 21.7 points on a true shooting percentage of 66.3%, shooting much better from 2-point range, getting to the line for 32 total attempts, and making 29 of those 32.
This week: 2nd | Last week: 3rd
Give the Clippers credit for winning all three games this week without the services of Paul George, and Sunday’s blowout win over the Cavs came without Kawhi Leonard as well. George’s absence has been a blessing in disguise for Lou Williams, who averaged 24.7 points and 6.3 assists this week on 45.5 percent 3-point shooting, and definitely appears to have his swagger back. Leonard was brilliant in the two games he played, averaging 34.5 points on 50 percent 3-point shooting, so hopefully the leg contusion that kept him out Sunday doesn’t linger.
This week: 6th | Last week: 8th
One issue the Clippers need to address is their play in clutch situations. With the game in the balance with three minutes left, Los Angeles has a net rating of minus-9.8. Their effective field goal percent drops from 56.9 percent to 38.6 percent in clutch moments.
And with a tough week ahead, the Clippers are going to have improve how they handle close games. The upcoming week they have games against Miami, a miniseries with Utah, and another showdown with Brooklyn.
This week: 2nd | Last week: 5th
Trade target idea: Ish Smith
Much like with the Los Angeles Lakers earlier in the rankings, Derrick Rose was going to be the ideal fantasy trade scenario for the LA Clippers. But he’s in New York, so we look for another veteran guard to throw into the mix. Ish Smith isn’t the shooter the Clippers might want to go grab, but he’s someone who can organize an offense on the fly. He’s such a steady hand, and he can occasionally get going downhill in attack mode to get some buckets. He’s just not much of a shot-maker. The Clippers don’t have a good draft pick situation, so they need to find a guy they can get with a second-round pick or two.
Why are they ranked here? A perfect week for the Clippers, as they rebound after dropping three of four. Granted, the competition for them was pretty abysmal, but they handled all of them.