Patrick Beverley has never been regarded as a franchise-altering NBA player.
However, after being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers from the Houston Rockets as part of the Chris Paul deal, Beverley’s impact on his new team has been obvious. Los Angeles has a disappointing 6-11 record after Wednesday night’s victory over the Atlanta Hawks, but the team went 5-6 with Beverley on the court and has gone 1-5 in his absence.
It’s also worth noting that the team won their first four contests, all of which Beverley played in, before completely free falling.
Known for his defensive tenaciousness, Beverley and international rookie point guard Milos Teodosic were slated to handle most of the ball-handling duties for the Clippers this season. However, Teodosic played in just two games before suffering a foot injury and he is still out indefinitely.
After his five game absence, Beverley returned and played 22 minutes against the New York Knicks on Monday and mustered up nine points on 3-of-8 shooting along with six rebounds and two assists. But, apparently something didn’t feel right after the game.
The Clippers announced on Wednesday that Beverley is expected to miss the remainder of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
"It's a tough blow for the team, but it's worse for Patrick," coach Doc Rivers said before the Clippers' game in Atlanta, per the Associated Press. "We thought it would probably be just meniscus, but it turns out to be a lot more.”
Overall, Beverley averaged 12.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.7 steals in 30.3 minutes over his 11 games played.
"He's a guy that you just want around your team as much as possible and the fact that he won't be hurts our team for sure," Rivers said.
While the NBA’s regular season is 82 games and there’s plenty of time to turn things around, Beverley’s injury creates a sticky situation for the Clippers. While they didn't solely rely on him, he proved to be an impactful piece of the puzzle so far. Although Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are there, backcourt play is at the utmost importance in today’s NBA.
Given the situation, the Clippers have three defined options.
Option 1: Keep the roster as is, try to tough it out
Although losing Beverley undoubtedly hurts, having Griffin and Jordan on the roster means that the team will trot out one of the best frontcourts in the league on any given night.
Sixth man Lou Williams has been thrust into a major role off the bench. Although he’s not a traditional point guard by any means, he has ball-handling skills and can put up 30 points on any night if he catches fire.
Coach’s son Austin Rivers hasn’t exactly been efficient, but he’s been capable of handling additional minutes, as has veteran forward Wesley Johnson.
Danilo Gallinari, the team’s prized free agent signing of this past offseason, has been limited to nine games with an injury of his own. Therefore, once he returns, he will likely assume a major offensive role, which will take some of the burden off of Williams and Griffin specifically.
Willie Reed, Sindarius Thornwell, Juwun Evans, Montrezl Harrell, Sam Dekker, Brice Johnson, C.J. Williams and Jamil Wilson round out the rest of the roster. Although that may seem like a below-average group on paper, specifically Harrell and Dekker showed glimpses of talent during their time with the Rockets in the past. Therefore, Coach Rivers might be able to find a diamond in the rough.
This option would be the conservative choice, but would likely ensure that the team struggles for the rest of the season. However, that could be a smart choice, as the NBA’s new lottery rules to prevent tanking don’t come into effect until the 2019 Draft. Asking veterans like Griffin and Jordan to be patient might be tough though.
Option 2: Add a point guard to the current roster
Since Thornwell and Evans don’t project as franchise point guards, bringing in some help at the position might be a good idea, especially until Teodosic recovers from his ailment.
Some of the current free agent point guards still on the market include Isaiah Canaan, Semaj Criston, Ty Lawson, Deron Williams, Mo Williams, Toney Douglas, Ray McCallum, Beno Udrih, Norris Cole, Trey Burke, and Brandon Jennings. Therefore, there’s a solid mix of young and veteran talent available.
Or, the Clippers could target a backup point guard that is currently on another team via trade. Some of those names could presumably include T.J. McConnell of the Philadelphia 76ers, Cory Joseph of the Indiana Pacers, Jerian Grant of the Chicago Bulls, Shabazz Napier of the Portland Trail Blazers, Jordan Clarkson of the Los Angeles Lakers, George Hill of the Sacramento Kings or J.J. Barea of the Dallas Mavericks.
There are many choices that the Clippers have in terms of acquiring talent if the finances match up properly. Of course this option could help the team in the short run, but wouldn't improve the team enough to make it a contender of any sort. That would give the Clippers a mid first-round pick, which wouldn't exactly be optimal.
Option 3: Blow the entire roster up and start over
This is the most exciting of the three options by a landslide.
Right now, the Clippers have to ask themselves a very simple question: can this team win an NBA title in the near future? It’s safe to say the answer to that is a resounding “no”.
If the trio of Chris Paul, Griffin and Jordan couldn’t get over the hump or make any noise, the organization might need to take another route, especially now that CP3 is gone.
The positive is that both Griffin and Jordan would garner a ton of interest around the league, and would, in turn, allow the Clippers to re-stock their organization with high-level draft picks and/or young talent to build towards the future.
Per a report by Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post on Wednesday afternoon, the Clippers are already fielding phone calls about Jordan’s status.
Additionally, getting rid of Griffin (who is owed over $132 million more in guaranteed money after this season) and Jordan (who is owed over $22 million more) would create a massive amount of cap space in what should be an exciting upcoming free agent class in the summer of 2018. Making a bargain $7 million this season, Williams would also be a major target for contenders looking for help on their second units. Therefore, some additional compensation could be found by dealing him.
Given Los Angeles’ huge market, the team’s eccentric owner Steve Ballmer and their excellent head coach, persuading a big name or two to join the new-look Clippers probably wouldn’t be too difficult.
Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, Chris Paul, Avery Bradley, Jabari Parker, Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic are just a few of the names that are currently projected to be available next summer.
Although trading away Griffin, Jordan and Williams would send a clear message to the team’s fanbase about this year’s squad, it would also give the fans a reason to believe that the best times are ahead. Since the organization has never won an NBA title, that has to be the sole focus moving forward. Moving the team’s most productive players would set them back in the short-term, but given the presumed top-level compensation in return, Los Angeles could start over the team-building process from the ground up with a new crop of young talent.
Which option would you choose? We will find out what the Clippers elect to do in the near future.