Who Will Fill the Chris Paul Void?
Last week I reported on how good Chris Paul really is, and the impact his departure would have on the Los Angles Clippers. This week I’m going to go the other way and look at how the Clippers can fill that void. I’m going to focus on three players in particular: Patrick Beverley, Miloš Teodosić and Blake Griffin. These three guys are going to be taking on the bulk of the burden in terms of creating offense. To a lesser extent you could say Austin Rivers’ role will increase, though he’s more likely to be playing an off-ball role at the two if he does play with the starting unit. As mentioned in my previous piece, CP3 is on another level in terms of two-way play. Do Beverley, Teodosić and Griffin stand a chance at filling his shoes? As always, let’s look to the numbers…
Patrick Beverley plays "mad" defense. He made the All-Defensive First Team this year and was in the All-Defensive Second Team in 2014. If anything he may be a better defensive guard, as it is his best skill . His defensive rating is only slightly worse across his entire career than Paul's is:
Paul dominates Beverley in so many statistical categories, one of the few areas the new Clippers’ guard has over him is rebounding. Last year Patrick Beverley was the second best offensive and defensive rebounding point guard. While rebounding isn’t essential to a point guard’s game it may help in the new Clippers’ system where there will be an increased emphasis on PACE and ball movement (the Clippers were 17th in PACE last year). Three-point shooting is another area which Beverley has over Paul, albeit marginally. Over both of their careers Beverley averages 37.5% from deep while CP averages marginally less at 37%.
The Clippers have replaced the Point God with a prototypical three-and-d point guard. We’ll leave the final word on how he will fit, to Beverley, “I am not Chris Paul. I reiterate. I am not Chris Paul, but in saying that, he is not me, either.”
While Beverley may be a defensive specialist, Teodosić is all about the offense. Last season , he lead the Euroleague in assists per game (7) and assist percentage (43.4%). Those numbers may not reach the heights of CP3 at his peak, but with the combined work of him and Beverley you’ve almost got a perfectly balanced point guard. Like Beverley, Teodosić was an elite shooter for CSKA Moscow. Across his career in the Euroleague, which spans back to 2007-08, he has made the second most three-point field goals at 471. His percentage across that time is higher than both Paul and Beverley at 38.6%, peaking in 2015-16 at 42.8%.
Lineups which include both guards could be seriously deadly, and the fact that Teodosić and Beverley have been teammates before (at Olympiakos in 2010) means their on-court chemistry should be seamless. The man who has been on the receiving end of plenty of Chris Paul’s wizardry knows the impact him leaving will have but is excited by arrival of his two new teammates at the same time; that’s exactly how Clippers fans should feel.
We here at Off the Glass debated whether Blake deserved the max. That’s all null and void now; he needs to step up in the absence of his former teammate and start running the show. He’s averaged over five assists the past three seasons with the Clippers, and with Paul now gone that number will have to increase to somewhere closer to the six range. To go along with that, his assist percentage will need to go back to his 2015-16 days where it was at 27.2% (last year he was at 24.5%, still a very respectable number for a big man). Only Marc Gasol (24.8%), Draymond Green (27.6%) and Nikola Jokic (28.8%) had higher percentages for big men in the same category last season.
Surround Griffin with the right line up and spacing and you’ll only see those stats grow. The most intriguing line-up would see Griffin playing the five with Gallinari alongside him at the four. Add in any number of capable shooters (Beverley, Rivers, Teodosić, Williams) and you’ve got huge possibilities on the offensive end. With Griffin running the offense more, you’re going to see more plays like this once he returns to the court:
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Clippers following the loss of CP3. Yes the hole he’s left on both ends of the floor is going to be difficult to replace, but with the signing of some great offensive and defensive guards, and add in the growth of Griffin, you should see a highly competitive outfit next season. Here’s hoping all their important pieces can stay healthy.
All stats provided by Basketball Reference.