With the addition of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, the LA Clippers will be able to roll out lineups that will be tough to beat in 2019-2020.
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the LA Clippers made a bit of a splash in free agency recently. By signing Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George, LA has instantly created one of the most must-see squads in the league.
One of the big selling points the Clippers had this offseason was their depth. This presumably let the team sell Leonard on load management, and that he wouldn’t be required to play 75 games for the team.
The other side to so much depth is that there are a lot of lineups that coach Doc Rivers can throw out there. Math nerds among us: if you have 10 dudes who can really play (Leonard, George, Landry Shamet, Ivica Zubac, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, JaMychal Green (assuming he returns), Rodney McGruder, Maurice Harkless), then that’s 252 total possible 5-man lineups.
Of course, not all of those lineups will make sense. I’m betting we won’t see a 5 man lineup of Zubac, Harrell, Green, Harkless and Shamet on the floor during too many meaningful games. But some others are very intriguing.
Rivers has proven time and time again to be a very smart coach, and you know he’s eager to test out some combinations on the court.
With that in mind, I want to look at a few of those lineups that I think are incredibly intriguing. As always, all stats come from stats.nba.com and basketball-reference.com. For this piece, I’m assuming also assuming Green is re-signing with the team. There’s no official word on that yet, but not much has been heard from his camp, and he was a great part of the squad last year.
The “Pick Your Poison” lineup
Featuring: Beverley, Shamet, George, Leonard, Green
This is one that I think we’ll see a fair amount of, especially in crunch time situations. Imagine this: down by two points in the final possession, Leonard has the ball in his hands and the others are spreading the floor for him.
Look at these absurd numbers. On catch and shoot threes last year, Beverley shot 41 percent, Shamet 45 percent, George 40 percent and Green 42.
As Leonard makes his move to the basket, what does the other team do? On the one hand, if you leave him one-on-one, he’s probably going to torch his defender (Leonard had 1.05 points per possession in isolation). But on the other hand, if you help off of somebody, he dishes it to an open >40 percent three-point shooter. There’s no winning.
The other nice thing about this lineup is that it’s still fairly solid defensively. Shamet and Green are no defensive stoppers, by any measure, but with Beverley, George and Leonard, they’d only have to guard the other team’s worst guard and the other team’s worst big/forward.
The “Clamp City” lineup
Featuring: Beverley, George, Harkless, Leonard, Zubac
The Clamp City lineup is going to be an absolute nightmare for any opposing team to score on. Who’s the worst defender here? Probably Zubac, and the advanced metrics smile on him as a defender (1.5 Defensive Box Plus/Minus, 0.7 Defensive Win Shares – basically he’s a plus defender, according to those).
Wanna run iso against this? You’re looking at trying to beat some of the best wing defenders in the league. There’s nobody to try to target with the pick and roll to get a switch. Zubac isn’t going to be able to stay in front of somebody like James Harden, but he’s mobile enough and can move his feet.
Last year, these five dudes combined for 6.8 steals per game, so no passing lane will be safe. And having a legit 7’1 big at the rim will help to turn some layup and dunk attempts into floaters and midrange jumpers.
Much like the Pick Your Poison lineup, this lineup can contribute on the other side of the ball, too. Harkless isn’t exactly an offensive force, but having George and Leonard out there, with Beverley’s shooting and Zubac’s promising touch in the post will keep this offense from stagnating.
The “Load Management” lineup
Featuring: Williams, Shamet, George, Green, Harrell
Look, Leonard isn’t going to play every game. Part of Toronto’s winning strategy was load management, and you can expect the LA Clippers to play the same game here.
With this lineup, you’ve got one of the most effective two-man attacks in the Williams/Harrell pick and roll. You’ve got the possibility of Williams creating his own shot, something he’s fantastic at.
You have shooting in Shamet, George and Green. You have PG picking up the best guy on defense and Trezz playing with his typical energizer bunny ferocity. There’s not one focus with this one; instead, this is a many-headed monster, waiting to see how best to attack.
The best part about this lineup? If it’s a George load management day, feel free to slot in Leonard instead. You still have the same effect. If you want to rest both of the superstars, play the three guard lineup of Williams/Shamet/Beverley and you’re still looking good! You’ve got defense, shooting and energy.
There are a lot of different ways Doc can arrange these LA Clippers, and I’m looking forward to what he has in store for us. What are you most looking forward to about this squad? Let us know!