Even though the Los Angeles Clippers traded away Chris Paul, one of the league’s preeminent point guards, they still boast one of the Western Conference’s deepest backcourts.
The organization moved swiftly, signing international sensation Milos Teodosic–who should see starting minutes at some point this season. In the trade for Paul, the Clippers also acquired Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams. In doing so, Los Angeles will promote a “strength in numbers” mantra.
The Clippers’ assortment of guards–composed of specialists–should be able to answer the call for head coach Doc Rivers. Teodosic will serve as the offensive playmaker, effectively running the pick-and-roll with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Meanwhile, Beverley will be tasked with defending the opposing team’s best playmaking guard.
Williams, who has never played with a frontcourt as talented as the Clippers, should find more room to operate. The 30-year-old point guard often finds himself in the running for the Sixth Man of the Year Award, and 2017-18 should be no different.
“It is a transition, but we’re not necessarily rebuilding,” Doc Rivers told the Los Angeles Times. “We’re just transitioning, seeing if we can figure this out in another way. But it is a transition from what we had.”
The main holdover is Austin Rivers, who is the most athletic of the group. Still just 25, Rivers can play both point guard and shooting guard, and his athleticism stands out among his fellow guards.
Rivers averaged 12 PPG and 2.8 APG in 2016-17, but he should see an uptick in those numbers as his role increases. Even though Doc Rivers can play the matchups, any one of the four guards could see their role increase if they seize the opportunity.
And despite the predilection to play point guard, Rivers can also mix and match lineups. Beverley played point guard in Houston before head coach Mike D’Antoni made James Harden the lead floor general. As the season progresses, it might make sense to play both Teodosic and Beverley together–going for offense and defense in the same pairing.
The Clippers also boast an intriguing duo of prospects. The team was able to snag Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell in the 2017 NBA Draft. Evans is primarily a ball handler, whereas Thornwell could excel as an instant-offense provider coming off the bench.
Neither will likely play a role right away, but both players are worth developing and could turn into consistent contributors. Thornwell posted his best season at South Carolina as a senior. He averaged 21.4 PPG and shot 44.4 percent from the field. His three-point shooting percentage approached 40 percent at 39.2.
At 6-foot-5, Thornwell has the best chance of making an impact as a rookie. Evans was well regarded coming out of Oklahoma State, with many prognosticators slotting him at the tail end of the first round. Since Teodosic, Williams, and Rivers could all see ball-handling duties, Evans might have a tougher shot at cracking the point guard rotation. Thornwell, a more traditional shooting guard, has more of an opening.
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