The Clippers just got a road win with their entire starting lineup out. So, yes, it’s time for some Clippers and Pistons player grades–but we aren’t gonna take them too seriously today because it’s all vibes right now.
Clippers Starter Grades
Reggie Jackson: A. What is there to say?
Luke Kennard: B+. It felt like the Clippers’ “Plan A” tonight was for Luke to get hot, as he came out of the gates putting up a ton of shots. That didn’t materialize, but I actually love to see a shooter dig deep and find ways to contribute when shots aren’t falling. A career-high 10 rebounds and a lot of craftiness to get to the free throw line 7 times didn’t make for a pretty performance, but a gritty one, and the Clippers pulled out a gritty win.
Terance Mann: B. Probably the main guy who didn’t “step up” and impact the game, Mann got a couple of early fouls and had just three first half points before finishing with 9 points on 4-12 shooting, 4 rebounds, and 1 assist in 29 minutes. But I’m not going lower than a B because two of the biggest plays of the game were with 44 and 19 seconds left, when Terance threw down an underappreciated monster dunk and then raced forward in transition to kick the ball out for a Reggie Jackson three to tie the game.
Patrick Patterson: D. There’s really no way that Malik Fitts could have been worse. Missing open shots, and absolutely no threat to do something with the ball in his hands when the defense overplays other options. Patterson’s flaws are much better masked by elite talent around him, but his court time was rough with this crew.
Ivica Zubac: A. Until Reggie’s fourth-quarter takeover (10 points on 4-6 shooting, including the gamewinner), Zu was the best player on the court tonight. He had 18 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block. With the Clippers struggling offensively, he earned extra possessions on the offensive glass and kept the Pistons in the mud by anchoring LA’s defense. It’s less of an issue when this team is at full strength, but I think there’s a lot of merit to being more deliberate about getting Zu touches: not only is he a really efficient finisher around the basket who gets to the free throw line and converts, but he has also really shown passing ability in the short roll.
Clippers Bench Player Grades
Amir Coffey: A. Contract. If not now (because the Clippers need to juggle emergency depth at guard and center), next off-season will be the time for Amir to sign a nice, cheap, multi-year deal to stick with LAC. Like any deep bench player, there are some weaknesses, and I don’t think it’s certain that he’ll ever be a good top-10 rotation guy, but he’s already proven this year that he can make an impact and avoid catastrophes when called upon in an injury replacement roll.
Nic Batum: B. It was actually a low-production evening for Nic, who had 7 points on 2-7 shooting, only 1 rebound, and no assists (though he did get a steal and a block) in 27 minutes of court time. But I have a bit of appreciation for the 32-year-old core rotation player who not only plays when the other vets are sitting out, but plays big minutes. The image of the Clippers coming back onto the court after their final timeout and Batum gathering Reggie, Luke, Terance, and Amir around him for another quick huddle is sticking with me. Leadership.
Rajon Rondo: B+. Speaking of leadership, none of the veteran Clippers who rested tonight were as active in encouraging and coaching the younger players on the court than Rondo. He did appear in this game, but just for a 17-minute backup role to keep the trains running on time with the Clippers down so many guards. I actually would have liked to see him play a bit more down the stretch as the Clippers were sputtering offensively, but the team was ultimately able to both win the game and keep the 36-year-old’s minutes down.
DeMarcus Cousins: B-. In what was Cousins’ first real rotation night as a Clipper, it was clear where his struggles arose this season with the Houston Rockets: he just has no lift around the basket, making it really difficult for him to finish at an average rate in traffic. But I think we also saw some of the advantages: his strength adds a nice little layer of physicality to the team, as he drew two fouls battling for position in the early fourth quarter. Normally, the team won’t need him to play this much (if at all) and they won’t be so short on options that they’ll have to force feed him in the post. In that more refined role, I think the early fourth quarter of this game was a nice example for how Cousins can contribute positively situationally.
Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris, Serge Ibaka, and Jay Scrubb were all sidelined with various injuries, ailments, or just straight-up rest. Malik Fitts and Daniel Oturu were both available to appear off the bench but went unused by Ty Lue.
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