Welcome back to Stock Watch, a regular feature where we’ll check in on which Clippers are playing well, not so hot, or just can’t crack the rotation.
Over the past two weeks, Kawhi Leonard has seen a massive jump in his offensive efficiency. His effective field-goal percentage had fallen to 42.9 during the month of November, the lowest mark on the Clippers. For context, the league average is 52.2. That percentage is now up to 51.2 in the last five games (remember, he sat against Indiana and Chicago to avoid the back-to-backs).
Part of the spike has been Leonard's improved accuracy from beyond the arc. He has made 11 of his last 20 3-pointers, and though his jumper always looks a little flat relative to other stars, he seems to have his legs underneath him. The improved fluidity in his shot is also evident at the foul line, where Leonard has made 40 of his last 42 free throws, including all 19 (a franchise record) in a win over Minnesota.
Leonard's been filling out the stat sheet as he regains his jumper. His assist percentage (21.2) is the third highest on the team, behind Lou Williams and Paul George, and his rebounding percentage (21.7) is second behind Ivica Zubac, all in a tidy 31.8 minutes per game. Over the past two weeks, he has the best net rating on the Clippers at plus-18.6.
The Clippers can afford to weather offensive lulls from Leonard with George back in the lineup, particularly since his defense hasn't missed a step. But the team needs Leonard at his offensive peak to be a true contender. Hopefully, his bounce back following a down game against Milwaukee continues.
The Clippers highly-touted rookie had a chance to carve out a meaningful role in the rotation over the past two weeks as the team dealt with several injuries, many in the backcourt. Landry Shamet, Patrick Beverley, Rodney McGruder, and Williams all missed time, giving Mann the perfect opportunity to show out. Instead, he found himself supplanted by Derrick Walton Jr.
Mann has been a reluctant shooter – Doc Rivers said he had to be threatened to shoot after passing up open looks from the corner. That mucks up the team's spacing, and particularly makes it challenging for Montrezl Harrell to make reads out of the short roll if the Mann won't shoot out of the corner.
Mann wasn't billed as shooter coming out of college, but he hasn't wowed in any other facets of his game. He makes rookie defensive mistakes and doesn't control the offense like a natural point guard. That's resulted in a minus-13.3 net rating over the past two weeks.
The preseason hype train for Mann may finally be coming to a stop. With the Clippers backcourt rounding into full health, Mann was sent down to Agua Caliente Tuesday while Walton remains with the parent team.
Keep an eye on:
Truthfully, it will be hard for Montrezl Harrell to ever be trending up this season because the man has been on a heater since the ball was tipped opening night. Arguably the Clippers' most consistent player, and the team's minutes leader, Trez has diversified his offensive game and elevated his performance to match the surrounding talent.
Trez is sometimes thought of as the second half of the Lou/Trez pick-and-roll, but he has become a lethal scorer in his own right. He is isolating three times as much as he was last season and scoring 1.36 points per isolation possession, putting him in the 97th percentile.
The Clippers are outscoring opponents by 9.5 points per 100 possessions when Trez plays without Lou Williams, and that isn't just a function of having George and Leonard on the team – Trez is also propping up bench-heavy lineups. At this rate of offensive production, Trez – and not Lou – deserves to be the favorite for Sixth Man of the Year.
The situation to keep an eye on, of course, is the other end of the floor. It's hard for Trez to ever be an elite rim protector at his size, though he has improved significantly and is the league leader in charges drawn (17) even if he rarely blocks shots. The Clippers have an excellent defensive center in Ivica Zubac, but over the last two weeks, Trez played 66 fourth-quarter minutes to Zubac's 7. That disparity is worth monitoring, particularly as the Clippers continue to play high-leverage defensive possessions, like against Chicago Saturday, late in games.