The Los Angeles Clippers are fully embracing positionless basketball after dealing away their only two rotation point guards before last week’s trade deadline.
Los Angeles sent away starting point guard Reggie Jackson to the Charlotte Hornets for veteran center Mason Plumlee and traded former NBA All-Star John Wall, whom they just acquired this past offseason, back to the Houston Rockets for returning Clipper Eric Gordon. This experiment was clearly worth a shot given that these two players have been highly ineffective for them this season.
The decision to ship out Jackson and Wall was enabled by the strong play of Terance Mann in recent weeks. He has started the last 21 games for the Clippers after usurping Jackson in the starting line-up in early January. While he is not a traditional point guard by any measure, Mann has enough playmaking acumen and shot creation skill to make defenses work.
Mann has come alive over the past two weeks, scoring in double figures in each of the Clippers’ last six outings. He has yet to shoot below 55% from the field in any of those games and is averaging less than one turnover per contest. His best outing came in their most recent win where they overcame the Phoenix Suns by nine, 116-107, in what could be a potential first round match-up.
The 26-year-old Mann finished with 26 points on 10-of-12 field goals, four rebounds, three assists, and one steal in 35 minutes against the Suns. Mann’s growing confidence was evident and his constant activity on both ends of the floor was problematic for Phoenix throughout the evening.
Though Mann has been brilliant in this expanded role, Los Angeles’ point guard duties will be handled by-committee moving forward. Aside from Mann, their two superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who are above average playmakers for their position, will also be there to help share the load.
These two NBA All-Star forwards have actually seen their assist numbers reach career-best levels after they joined the Clippers in 2019. This should only rise in the coming weeks as they take on the most ball handling responsibilities that either of them has ever had in their respective NBA careers.
More importantly in the context of this Los Angeles team, trading away their point guards will allow them to simultaneously deploy their three best perimeter stoppers–Mann, Leonard, and George–more often.
Mann stands at 6’5 and is tireless on defense which makes him a valuable asset in a potential playoff series against one of the Western Conference’s elite point guards. Leonard and George remain in their prime and it should not be overlooked that these two originally made a name for themselves as lockdown defenders.
This Los Angeles team has flown under the radar in the chaotic Western Conference this season, yet they cannot be overlooked as contenders. If Leonard and George can stay healthy–and that is a big if–a championship is not out of the question for them this season. They have quietly pieced together a 33-28 record which has them in fourth place in the standings and this group has the talent to keep up with any team on any given night.
It will be interesting to see if this “No point guard” experiment will pan out for the Clippers and if other teams will imitate them moving forward if it does indeed work out for them.