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Clippings: Patrick Beverley’s role continues to diminish

The beating heart of the Clippers is now a permanent fixture on the bench.

NBA: MAY 25 NBA Playoffs First Round - Mavericks at Clippers Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When the Clippers struggled to defend at the point of attack in last year’s playoffs, whether that was with Luka Dončić or Jamal Murray, one reason was regularly trotted out: the health of Patrick Beverley.

Beverley missed the last five games of the first round with a calf injury and was on a minutes restriction through most of the second round. When he played in the 2020 postseason, the Clippers had a defensive rating of 99.4 points allowed per 100 possessions in 166 minutes. That rating spiked to 111.9 in the 463 minutes Beverley didn’t play.

During the 2020-21 regular season, that trend continued, if not to the same degree. Beverley had the best defensive rating (106.7) of any rotation player other than Rajon Rondo, who only started playing for the Clippers in April. Meanwhile, the team’s defensive rating without Beverley was 110.5.

2021 NBA Playoffs - Dallas Mavericks v LA Clippers
The Clippers have traditionally been at their best defensively with Patrick Beverley playing.
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

So when the Clippers struggled defensively in the first two games of their series against Dallas, it was interesting that Beverley was the first starter to lose his spot. Ty Lue explained why he opted for Reggie Jackson in the starting lineup after Game 3.

“I thought (Reggie) adds pace,” Lue said. “We were able to run our offense a little better, cuz him and Pat are different. Pat’s a defensive guy who can set the tone defensively, but with our starters, we were scoring 0.91 points per possession. And not saying it was Pat’s fault but we just needed a jolt, we needed some more energy, we needed some attacking the basket, playing with pace. That was the thought with Reggie starting, and I thought he did a great job of that.”

A week later, Beverley hasn’t just been bumped from the starting lineup, but from the rotation altogether. Beverley has played a total of 11 minutes over the last three games; about half of those minutes came in garbage time in Game 4, and his lone Game 5 action was an 11-second cameo for a defensive possession at the end of the first quarter. He has been usurped by not just Jackson, but Rajon Rondo and Terance Mann as well.

Rondo is unequivocally a better passer than Beverley, Jackson is a better scorer, and Mann brings energy and rim pressure. But they all have flaws, too, which makes it hard to understand how a team that is going small has excised a player who was a starter for half the season. Beverley can shoot the open three and make straight line drives. He isn’t the most disciplined defender, but he applies pressure and brings a great deal of intensity on that end. Beverley looked bad to start the series defensively, but so did every Clipper. He can still bring value on both ends.

Minnesota Timberwolves v LA Clippers
The Clippers have found success with other guards, keeping Pat Bev glued to the bench.
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

More than anything, Beverley is the beating heart of this team, its voice on and off the floor. The Clippers already moved on from Lou Williams this year, and now they’re marginalizing Beverley. There’s a shocking lack of continuity on the roster at this point; the only player who predates Lue is Ivica Zubac, and even his minutes are down.

If the Clippers advance out of this round, Lue will assuredly re-evaluate his rotations and find a role for Beverley moving forward. Defending Dončić may not be Beverley’s cup of tea, but the Clipper guard has had success against Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley Jr.

“Playoffs — it’s a game of matchups,” Lue said last week. “It’s a game of runs, a game of wins and you gotta do what’s best for the team. Pat Beverley was great with it, he said whatever you need me to do, coach, I’m all for it. That’s how you’ve got to be if you want to win.”

Beverley will assuredly do whatever helps the Clippers win, even if that means yelling coverages from the bench and keeping his teammates engaged during stoppages. It seems like we’ve seen the last of him playing meaningful minutes in this series, though it’s never too late for more adjustments. For now, we can only wonder if Beverley has more to offer on the court.

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