Now that Landry Shamet has returned to the lineup, the LA Clippers are only a few players away from having a healthy team for the first time this season.
At 20-8, the LA Clippers are one of the league’s best teams right now. They’re one of only four teams to win at least 20 games (as of the time of this post), are a top-10 team in both offensive and defensive rating and have won 13 of their last 16.
Most impressive, though, is the fact that they’ve achieved that despite not having their best 10-man rotation available for a single game this season.
Patrick Beverley, Paul George, JaMychal Green, Kawhi Leonard, Rodney McGruder, Landry Shamet and Lou Williams have all missed a combined 59 games this year. Maurice Harkless, Montrezl Harrell and Ivica Zubac are the only three projected rotation players that have not missed any games.
Fortunately, game 29 could be the one that changes all of this.
According to the team’s most recent injury report, Beverley, Green and Williams are all listed as “questionable” ahead of Tuesday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns. If all three of them play, the Clippers would presumably have a completely healthy roster for the first time this season.
It’s about time, too.
It’s never too early to start thinking about the playoffs, and the Clippers need to get these units as many reps as possible before they get there. We’re starting to see what the starting rotation — the one featuring Bev, PG, Kawhi, Harkless and Zu — can do, but we still don’t know what the bench looks like at its best, or if the starting unit will remain intact.
A lot of it comes down to Shamet, who was a mainstay of the starting rotation after he arrived via trade. He was in the starting lineup to begin the year and has started all 11 games he’s played, but that was while George was still sidelined. He’s since moved into the starting shooting guard position, which means Shamet *should* move to the bench.
However, there is an argument to play Shamet with the starters. Given George and Leonard’s gravity and Shamet’s ability to shoot the three, it could be argued that he — and the team — would benefit more from playing him alongside those two. He would still be able to get his shot off while coming off the bench, but the defense has been the second unit’s main problem so far, not offense.
A starting unit featuring Bev, Sham, PG, Kawhi and Zu sounds scary. Four of the five players can shoot the three, and Sham’s movement on offense could help get things going when the Clippers get stagnant — something that’s happened more than a few times this season.
Regardless of what the LA Clippers decide to do with Sham, exciting days are near. Even if the team isn’t completely healthy for tomorrow’s game, they should be later this week.