As the Clippers get healthier, Ty Lue has some decisions to make about what he wants his rotations to look like going forward.
The theoretical desired starting lineup of Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr. and Serge Ibaka has only played five minutes together this season, the last minute coming on March 11. If the Clippers go with that starting group with Ivica Zubac at center instead, that unit has played just 25 minutes together, though at least they have institutional continuity since that was the starting five in last year’s playoffs.
Beyond that, there are even more questions. What happens at backup guard? Rajon Rondo is the only true point guard off the bench, but Reggie Jackson has played himself into a larger role as well. That leaves fewer minutes for Luke Kennard, who seems to need some time to get into a rhythm, and Terance Mann. Mann has been a consistent burst of energy, but even he had some difficulty in a reduced role with Jackson, Rondo, and the two stars in front of him Saturday.
“I didn’t think Terance was able to get into a good flow,” Lue said after the Denver loss. “He’s been playing good for us off the bench. When guys are back healthy and we have a lot of our guys back, his minutes could be sporadic.”
There’s also a new conversation about backup center. Presumably, that role will belong to Ibaka when he returns, but that date is uncertain. For now, Patrick Patterson has been the backup center, mostly due to inertia; Patterson has been here for a while, and he knows all the plays. But he doesn’t have anywhere near the talent of DeMarcus Cousins, and Cousins made a compelling case that his talent will help him get by until he gets up to speed with the playbook.
Maybe the Clippers will go small more often, but they haven’t really practiced any of those units with Rondo. Because of the constant shuffling, the Clippers are still trotting out new lineups with seven games to play. They’re in the learning process, trying to figure out who works well with each other and who doesn’t. Lue acknowledged that the Nuggets game was useful from an informational perspective at least, even if the Clippers didn’t get the desired result.
There is a lot left to figure out until the postseason, and the team’s place in the standings is essentially restricted to the No. 3 or the No. 4 seed. It might not be such a bad thing if the Clippers lose a few games so long as they get the answers to those questions.
More news for Monday:
- The Clippers officially clinched a playoff berth! Ninth time in ten seasons and 16th time in franchise history.
- Like his running mate Paul George, Kawhi Leonard has also been playing through a foot injury and will continue to do so through the rest of the season.
- Shane Young wrote about how the Clippers have been holding themselves accountable in the face of adversity.
- Kevin Pelton dives into championship contenders with the least continuity.
- Mfiondu Kabengele signed a multi-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. We wish him all the best.