LA Clippers: Why the starting lineup should stay as is into the playoffs

The LA Clippers are in the midst of the longest active win streak in the NBA at five games. This has happened even without key pieces Serge Ibaka or Patrick Beverley really being present for any of the games. Sure, Beverley was able to suit up once but an injury to his hand again means the team will be without his services for weeks.

In their absence, Ivica Zubac and Reggie Jackson have filled the starting roles with great success. The team is clicking as they look towards the postseason.

This starting lineup should remain the same even as the LA Clippers enter the postseason.

Now, I know the idea of not starting Patrick Beverley will probably turn off a few people. I get it. I love Bev. The fact of the matter, however, is that he has not been able to stay on the court this season and build the necessary chemistry. On the other hand, Reggie Jackson has found how to fit in role with this team and the team has benefitted.

In 277 minutes, the three-man lineup of Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Jackson in 24 games has the third-highest offensive rating on the roster at 127.6 of those three-man groups that have played more than 100 minutes together. In fact, of trios across the NBA that have played more than 200 minutes together this season, they have the highest offensive rating. Yes, you read that right.

Highest. Offensive. Rating. In. The. League.

Now, the sample size isn’t all that large compared to other teams but given the fluctuations due to injury the Clippers have had this season, it’s significant.

Reggie has just been that good offensively and it’s worth ignoring his defensive issues. He’s converting on 47.1% of his catch and shoot opportunities, the perfect complement to George and Leonard. If the two are driving more in the postseason, Jackson should get plenty of chances to knock down shots from deep. Given the other players in the starting lineup’s defensive prowess, the Clippers can probably tolerate some defensive weakness at the point guard position. This brings us to Ivica Zubac.

Last week we went into detail on just how effective he has been defensively. Over the past week, the Clippers haven’t lost a game and Zu has continued to look great. Keeping him alongside the likes of George, Leonard, and Marcus Morris would allow the Clippers to effectively cover all of Jackson’s weaknesses. Even if teams target him, the Clips would have a superb rim protector in Zu as their last line of defense. Offensively, he has been excellent at the rim converting on 66.1% of his shots from less than 10 feet.

Defensively, opponents are shooting 12.2% worse against him this season from less than six feet from the rim and 10.6% worse from less than 10 feet.

The case for those two to continue to start makes sense. But it leaves us with other questions. What happens to Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley?

Both would be relegated to bench roles, yes, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have an impact. Beverley off the bench can provide a jolt of energy and defense. If Reggie comes off the court as the first sub, Beverley can hound opposing guards who may be tired from their first stint or even just dominate backups. The same goes for Ibaka. He would still be able to come in and provide a different look at the center position while not having a huge dropoff defensively from Zu.

Just because Jackson and Zu get the start doesn’t mean both have to close, either. We know the Clippers will likely plug Rajon Rondo in with the two stars towards the end of games and we could see Serge based on the matchup. This change would just allow the Clippers to start the game with a lineup they have familiarity with this season and know works.

We’ve already seen this season that Ty Lue is fine with swapping lineups around based on what’s working. Nicolas Batum earned a starting spot to begin the season but as Ty saw that Morris was more effective with the starting group, he made the switch. It’s possible we see that again.