As the Clippers prepare to play the Lakers on Christmas Day, NBA scouts offered their grades and assessments on why the Clippers have prospered so far this season.
The scouts believe the Clippers have quality and proven depth that puts them slightly ahead of the Lakers. The word “slightly” was commonly used to describe what sets the Clippers apart.
The Clippers are fourth in the Western Conference with a 22-10 record. Despite adding superstars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers are a work in progress as George missed the first 11 games following surgery and Leonard has missed nine to rest a balky knee.
The Clippers graded out overall with an A-minus. Here’s what scouts thought about each position group:
Grades varied from B- to A among the scouts.
An Eastern Conference scout gave the guards a B. “Landry Shamet and Pat Beverley are great guards to have with Paul and Kawhi because they don’t need the ball. Lou Williams is a unicorn,” the scout said.
A West scout also gave the guards a B, citing, “They don’t have a true point guard. Lou still gets it done, Pat is great on defense, but Landry is just getting back on the court” after an injury absence.
Another West scout gave them a B-, adding, “The only problem I have is the point guard position. I love Pat and Lou.”
But another scout from the East gave them an A: “You can’t give them a bad grade because they are doing what they are being asked to do. Lou is one of the best scorers in our game. Pat does what he does and comes in [and] wrecks stuff up” for other teams.
No surprise here. Led by Leonard and George, with length and depth on defense to back them up, it was a consensus A.
“Kawhi does an incredible job of pacing himself throughout the season and throughout the game,” one scout from the East said. “He’s just going to be able take over on both ends and he’s going to be the go-to guy and he can guard [positions] one through four. And then oh by the way, they got Paul George too. He’s just an incredible two-way player.”
Other scouts from the East and West concurred, also with an A.
“Kawhi and PG are just great, probably the best two-way players in the NBA,” one scout from the East said. Added a scout from the West: “You are talking about two guys who play the game on both ends of the floor.”
Another scout from the West was more adamant in giving them an A+: “Kawhi and PG by far are the best two-way players in the NBA as a pair.”
Not much disagreement from the scouts here, other than how well starting center Ivica Zubac plays.
“Zubac doesn’t protect the rim, but he’s been solid for them,” said a scout from the East who gave them a B, adding, “Montrezl Harrell is such a force and energy guy.”
A scout from the West also gave them a B because “Zu is really efficient. Trez is just a monster being able to do what he does at his size.”
Two other scouts graded them higher. “They have the best backup center in the league in Montrezl and Zubac protects the rim and he runs,” said a West scout who gave them an A-.
Added a scout from the East who gave them an A: “Montrezl runs, hustles and does the dirty work. Zu has improved a lot.”
Coach Doc Rivers and his talented assistants registered A’s across the board.
“Doc is a great coach,” a scout from the East said. “The guys working for him love working for him. He’s got great guys on the front of the bench obviously and the guys on the back of the bench are all really strong basketball minds.”
A scout from the West said, “Doc has the 30,000-foot view of things. He sees the big picture of what they need.”
Added another West scout, “Doc knows this game as well as anybody.”
Another scout from the East likes Rivers’ perspective of games throughout the season: “Doc is one of the smartest coaches in our game and he doesn’t get credit for coaching a game in December with the idea that ‘that game is going to help me in June.’”