Clippers vs Lakers: Who has the better starting 5?

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 25: Reggie Jackson #1 of the Los Angeles Clippers fails to get the ball past half court against Austin Reaves #15 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the fourth quarter at Crypto.com Arena on February 25, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 25: Reggie Jackson #1 of the Los Angeles Clippers fails to get the ball past half court against Austin Reaves #15 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the fourth quarter at Crypto.com Arena on February 25, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /
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Paul George and Malik Monk
Paul George and Malik Monk (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Malik Monk

2021-22 season stats: 13.8 ppg, 39.1 3p%

Malik Monk waited patiently next to the phone during the 2021 offseason. The explosive guard showed flashes of brilliance during his time in Charlotte but was mostly given the cold shoulder once he became a free agent.

As Monk began feeling a whirlwind of emotions, he reluctantly accepted a paltry deal to play with the Lakers. Now, after putting up career highs across the board, Lakers fans are desperate to bring him back into the fold.

In just a shade over 28.1 minutes per game, Monk frustrated defenders with his ability to bomb from distance, nailing 39.1% of his 3-point attempts, and score effortlessly on the inside, connecting on 56.8% of his 2-point shots.

Defensively, the wiry guard is still a liability. On pick and roll coverages, Monk often finds himself the target of bigger and more physical offensive players. To his credit, Monk fought tooth and nail on that side of the ball, resulting in 1.4 defensive win shares, a career best. Monk, at the age of 24, must be priority number one for a Lakers squad that is bereft of quality shooters and shot creators.

Paul George

2021-22 season stats: 24.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 5.7 apg

Still viewed as one of the more standout two-way players in the entire NBA, George has thrived since arriving in LA three years ago. With averages consisting of 22.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists – there isn’t much George can’t do on the court.

In the absence of Leonard, George stepped into his role as LA’s de-facto leader. Not known as loquacious, George allowed his play to do the talking for him. In what turned into an injury-hit year, George averaged 24.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 5.7 assists.

Although George has been forced to play second fiddle over the past four seasons to players such as Leonard and Russell Westbrook, the multiple-time All-Star is more than capable of carrying a group of talented players on a deep playoff run. Blessed with a smooth jumper, both from behind the arc and midrange, George is a nightmare to stop in half-court sets.

On the break, George is lethal, bombing from 3-point land or swooping to the hoop while finishing over much bigger players. George, by all accounts, is every bit a superstar in this league.

Verdict: Clippers

This one is a one-sided no-brainer. Monk has unquestionably upped his standings in NBA circles following his breakout season but George is one of the best two-way players in all of basketball. He’ll also don a gold Hall of Fame jacket when it’s all said and done.