With DeMarcus Cousins getting more minutes with starters out of the lineup, what will the Los Angeles Clippers playoff rotation look like? The Clippers recently added two big named players into their squad: Rajon Rondo and Boogie Cousins. Cousins is nearing the end of a 10-day contract, so his ability to play with Los Angeles in the postseason relies on his current play. According to Ty Lue, Cousins could be around for another ten days.
“Yeah we’re looking forward for him to continue on,” Lue said after the win against the Detroit Pistons. “He was big for us. The toughest thing is when he’s in the game, it’s hard to run plays because he really hasn’t caught up yet as far as the plays, because we haven’t had a lot of practice time.”
During the Clippers disappointing 2019 postseason run, they used a lineup consisting of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Marcus Morris, Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac, Landry Shamet, and JaMychal Green.
We are going to assume LA will use a 9-man rotation again, and with four of those players on different teams, there are spots to be filled.
Here’s a look at what I think the rotation will look like come the playoffs.
The Usual Suspects
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George
Pair of Big Men
Serge Ibaka, 31, has been injured since March 14, but he has been and will continue to be a big part of this team. He has been averaging 23.6 minutes per game with just under 11 points and seven rebounds. Prior to his injury, he was the starting center.
Since Ibaka’s absence, Ivica Zubac, 24, has filled in nicely in the starting lineup. His defense leaves much to be desired, but he is a solid player in the pick-and-roll and doesn’t need the ball in his hand. He also leads the team in rebounds per game.
Ibaka and Zubac will definitely fill out the big man rotation in the playoffs.
Patrick Beverley has dealt with some injury issues this season, but his impact can not be overlooked. He is an absolute bully on defense and can run the offense. Beverley, 32, fits perfectly with George and Leonard as a defensive trio. He can guard any position one through three and even guarded Kevin Durant in a series against the Golden State Warriors a couple years ago.
After suffering a hand injury, Patrick Beverley will miss a couple weeks, but he will still be a focal point of the point guard rotation for his defensive prowess.
Rajon Rondo, 35, was acquired at the trade deadline in a deal sending Lou Williams to the Atlanta Hawks. The Clippers are betting that Playoff Rondo will make a return and help keep the team focused on a championship. He will be a big part of the Clippers team come the playoffs, just like he was with their Los Angeles rivals last year. With a couple more weeks of getting acclimated to the team, Rondo could even become a starter in the postseason. When the Clippers ended the Phoenix Suns’ 7-game win streak on April 8th, Rondo played 19 minutes with a plus-minus of +24. His impact goes beyond how many minutes he plays.
With Patrick Beverley injured for a couple weeks, Rondo will get even more playing time and will continue to become an integral part of the rotation.
Reggie Jackson, 30, had a rocky stint with the Detroit Pistons, but has settled in nicely as a backup guard for the Clips. He has started 28 games this season and often closes the game. The acquisition of Rondo hurts Jackson’s chances of being a big part in the playoffs, but he very well could be the ninth man on the roster. He should also heavily benefit from Beverley’s absence.
When Beverley and Rondo are both healthy and playing, Jackson should still get playtime and will be used as instant offense off the bench.
Luke Kennard and Terance Mann
Luke Kennard and Terance Mann are in a similar boat. Both players average under 20 minutes per game but play an important role in the team.
“I think it’s more of a game-to-game situation,” coach Ty Lue said. “You know, I talked to both [Kennard and Mann] and they’re great. They just want to win, and they understand. Just trying to see what we got with our veteran guys with [Rajon] Rondo and [Patrick Beverley] coming back.”
It’s clear that Kennard, 24, and Mann, 24, are more of a fringe player in the Clippers lineup at the moment. In the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on April 6th, with Beverley, Rondo, and Jackson all playing, Kennard played three minutes and Mann played nine.
“I’m just playing my game, and bringing what I bring to the team,” said Terance Mann. “Whether that’s offensively or defensively, I’m just doing what I got to do to try and win.”
Kennard and Mann have played well when given the minutes and will look for more chances to prove themselves.
Nicolas Batum, 32, arrived in the offseason from the Charlotte Hornets when he thought his career was starting to wind down. He has quickly become one of the unsung heroes of the Clippers. Besides Leonard and George, Batum plays the most minutes per game.
He fills a roll that the Clippers were missing last year. He does a little bit of everything: he spreads the floor, plays tough defense, and allows either George or Leonard to take a rest.
Similar to Rondo, Batum has a lot of playoff experience and will be ready for a deep push this season.
The newest Clipper arguably has the most to prove in his possibly short time with the team. On just a 10-day contract, DeMarcus Cousins has very little time to prove his worth to the team. Cousins, 30, has had a terrible run of injuries in the past couple seasons, but seemed to be getting a rhythm in Houston before he was released. While a member of the Houston Rockets, Cousins played in 25 games and averaged 9.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 20.2 minutes.
In his Clippers debut he played seven minutes with seven points, four rebounds, and two assists. He has been in an out of the rotation, but with all starters out against the Pistons, he got 15 minutes and scored eight points.
Cousins is an underdog to become a regular in the playoff rotation as a Clipper. The 10-day contract offers zero risk on the side of the Clippers. They get to try out Cousins and see what he has to offer and then decide if they want to extend his stay. Cousins has much to prove in just over a week in Los Angeles.
In recent weeks Patrick Patterson has been getting more consistent minutes and has played well. There’s not much room for a 32-year-old Patterson in this team, barring an injury to Ibaka or Zubac.
Starting Lineup: Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris, Serge Ibaka
Bench: Rajon Rondo, Reggie Jackson, Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac
Doesn’t Make the Cut: DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Terance Mann, Luke Kennard
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