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.
Patrick Beverley was the talk of the locker room Sunday after it was revealed that Doc Rivers has entrusted him with a new responsibility: Beverley now has access to Rivers' play sheet, an honor only previously given to two other Rivers point guards, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo.
"We’re giving him a play sheet before and we leave it out so he can stare at them during every timeout," Rivers said after the team's win over New York. "He’s really trying to do this and be good at it. I've done it to two guards where I've actually given them my play sheet, Chris and Rondo. Other than that, I don't give anybody else that sheet because they can’t handle it. And we’re starting to slowly add things to that sheet for Pat, and he’s getting better and better at it."
When discussing the Clippers, one of the first concerns that comes up is that the team doesn't have a natural point guard. That's true, and a fair criticism, but it belies the work that Beverley has done to make himself an adequate floor general. It's not his fault that he's played most of his NBA career around other facilitators like James Harden and Kawhi Leonard. Beverley has always done what his team needs from him to win. Last year, that meant wing defense, rebounding, and consistent energy. This year, if that means developing more true point guard skills, that's what Beverley will do.
When Beverley was out for three games with a right wrist contusion, his was still ever-present on the bench, calling out plays and staying in Derrick Walton's ear during stoppages. "When he’s talking to me, sometimes that’s all the difference for somebody, someone that's a younger guy, just hearing from somebody that’s done it," Walton told Clippers Maven.
In his return against the Knicks, the energy Beverley brought was palpable, but so was his command of the game. He only scored six points, but he had six assists, including three for 3-pointers. On one possession, he had an open jumper for himself but instead swung it to JaMychal Green for an even more open three.
"Pat's the one guy - he's not a pure point guard, but he's doing his best, and overall, he's been very good for us," Rivers said. "He's the one guy who knows what we want to run the most. And I told him after the game, I thought he called a great game. He was like a catcher tonight. Every play he called was the right play, so I was proud of him tonight, because that's a big step for him."
As the season progresses, it's become clearer which players the coaching staff trusts in crunch time, and which they don't. Unfortunately for Moe Harkless (and his fellow starter Ivica Zubac), he has fallen on the wrong side of the ledger.
Over the past 10 games, Harkless has only appeared in three fourth quarters. His 15 total fourth-quarter minutes in that span exceed only those of Zubac, Mfiondu Kabengele, and the two 2-way players. (The other rookie Terance Mann hasn't played at all for the Clippers in the last 10 games).
Harkless is durable and a regular starter for the Clippers, but once he subs out in the second half after the first stint, he is unlikely to return to the game for meaningful minutes. The team values him for his ability to guard the opposing team's best players at the start of the game, but at the end, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George take that responsibility, rendering Harkless' value moot.
The first-year Clipper hasn't exactly made himself indispensable with his play on the offensive end. Other than shooting 39% (12-of-31, per Cleaning the Glass) on corner threes, he hasn't provided much spacing this season, and his unwillingness to shoot prevents him from drawing the defense's attention. Against Memphis and New York this past weekend, he only took six shots in 38 minutes and had zero assists while the Grizzlies and Knicks repeatedly exposed the Clippers defense. It's hard to justify Harkless' playing time in those situations.
When Harkless uses his handle to his advantage and tries to get to the basket, he's a more interesting offensive player. The Clippers are undefeated (7-0) when he scores in double digits, but seven out of 38 games isn't consistent enough for a championship contender.
Keep an eye on:
Landry Shamet has been back from injury for 11 games. In that time, he is shooting 45.6% from the field, 42.9% on 3-pointers, and 93.3% on free throws. Unfortunately, that only adds up to 8.8 points per game because Shamet's usage rate is fairly microscopic compared to the rest of his team. (Not compared to Harkless, obviously. Harkless' usage is the lowest on the Clippers over this stretch.)
Shamet provides a dimension to the Clippers offense that they simply can't get from any other player: He's a volume shooter that doesn't need the ball in his hands. Shamet is valuable in the second unit, but his presence would be optimized with the starters, where he can create some space for Leonard and George. Shamet hasn't played much with George this season, but the Clippers have a plus-8.71 net rating in the 278 minutes he has shared the court with Leonard, per Pivot Analysis, suggesting the potential for a fruitful partnership.
Too often, the Clippers have started games in offensive lulls and required Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell to come in and bail them out early. Shamet would help juice the offense earlier, and Harkless' inclusion in the second unit would add some defensive integrity to a lineup that can often be a bit flammable.
Rivers acknowledged that he hasn't always put Shamet in the right positions this year to be successful, like playing him at point guard with Beverley out. The Shamet that we've seen is still an offensive force if the Clippers can figure out how best to use him.