JaMychal Green signing solidifies Clippers' bench as the top second unit in the NBA
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JaMychal Green

JaMychal Green signing solidifies Clippers’ bench as the top second unit in the NBA

The Los Angeles Clippers boast one of the most talented starting lineups in basketball after signing two-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and acquiring six-time All-Star Paul George in a blockbuster trade. Not to mention their new-look starting five, which is expected to include former All-Defensive First-Team guard Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet and Ivica Zubac, will be deadly on both ends of the floor.

Another imposing dynamic for the new NBA title favorites is their loaded bench, which is retaining forward JaMychal Green.

Green agreed to a two-year, $10 million contract with the Clippers on Monday with a player option on the second season. He reportedly turned down more money in free agency for a chance to win a ring with Los Angeles.

Acquired in a midseason deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, Green averaged 9.4 points and 6.3 rebounds in 65 games (21 with LAC) last season.  He shot 48.3 percent from the field and 40.3 percent from three-point territory. Green elevated his play in the postseason, registering 11 points per contest off the bench in the Clippers’ first-round defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. The 29-year-old shot 53.5 percent from the field and 52.2 percent on 3’s.

Green’s versatility is an added benefit for the Clippers. Last postseason, the 6-foot-9 Green demonstrated an ability to play the center position. He is a strong pick-and-roll defender—far better than Zubac—and could close out games for defensive purposes.

Re-signing Green was not the only way the Clippers enhanced their second unit this offseason. They also acquired Maurice Harkless in a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers. Harkless got the starting nod in all 16 playoff games for the Blazers after starting in 53 of his 60 regular-season appearances. A tone-setter on defense, Harkless can guard both forward positions.

Harkless’ defensive prowess was exhibited in Portland’s first-round matchup versus the Oklahoma City Thunder when guarding his now-teammate George. Harkless limited George, who finished third in MVP voting last season with OKC, to 37 percent shooting over the first four games of the series. George did erupt for 36 points on 70 percent shooting in a devastating loss in the series-closing contest, but players of his magnitude can only be contained for so long. Harkless disrupted George for the majority of the series and was a major reason the matchup ended after just five games.

The Clippers also inked guard Rodney McGruder to a three-year, $15 million deal. McGruder, 27, was technically a member of the Clippers last year but never appeared in a game for them. The Clippers claimed the guard off waivers after the Miami Heat released him in April. He was not eligible to play in the postseason.

The Heat waived McGruder in order to get below the NBA’s luxury tax, saving the team $5 million. He averaged 7.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 23.5 minutes in 66 games for the Heat last season. McGruder, known for his tough style of play, guards multiple positions and defends the perimeter well.

The Clippers’ bench was a top-notch group last year. Lou Williams won his third Sixth Man of the Year honors last season, while teammate and big man Montrezl Harrell finished third in the voting for the award during his breakout campaign.

Williams, the NBA’s all-time leader in bench scoring, registered 20 points per contest with a career-best 5.4 assists last season. Harrell appeared in all 82 games and averaged 16.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks—all career-highs. Both players are returning for the Clippers and will spearhead the second unit.

Maintaining two of the best reserves in basketball is a major luxury for Los Angeles. With the re-upping of Green—following the acquisitions of Harkless and McGruder—there is no questioning that the Clippers enter the 2019-20 season with the top bench in the league.