Today’s installment of Better Know An Opponent focuses on the Los Angeles Clippers. Let’s take a look.
Projected Starting 5
Chris Paul (Stats)
J.J. Redick (Stats)
DeAndre Jordan (Stats)
Blake Griffin (Stats)
Jared Dudley (Stats)
Key bench players: Darren Collison, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Byron Mullens, Ryan Hollins
2012-13 Los Angeles Clippers By The Numbers:
Playoffs: Lost in first round
Offense: 107.7 points per 100 possessions (4th)
Defense: 101.0 points allowed per 100 possessions (9th)
Net: +6.7 points per 100 possessions (4th)
Pace: 93.56 possessions per game (19th)
Games vs. the Brooklyn Nets:
November 16th — Brooklyn Nets @ Los Angeles Clippers
December 12th — Los Angeles Clippers @ Brooklyn Nets (StubHub)
Key Additions: Doc Rivers (coach), J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Darren Collison, Antawn Jamison
Key Subtractions: Vinny Del Negro (coach), Eric Bledsoe, Grant Hill, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, Lamar Odom (FA)
Strengths: They’ve got everything, frankly. They’ve got the undisputed best point guard in the game in Chris Paul. They’ve got floor spacers in Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick. They’ve got the league’s most powerful dunker in Blake Griffin. They’ve got a defensive-minded, athletic center in DeAndre Jordan. They’ve got wing depth with Matt Barnes, Darren Collison, and Jamal Crawford. They’ve got one of the league’s best coaches in Doc Rivers, who replaced accidental coach and future insurance salesman Vinny Del Negro.
Weaknesses: If there’s any significant weakness on this team, it’s once Griffin and Jordan hit the bench. Ryan Hollins and Byron Mullens are the team’s first two bigs — Hollins is an extraordinarily limited center, and Mullens is a 7-footer that shot 38.5% from the field last season. After those four, no one on the Clippers is over 6’7″ (unless you believe Antawn Jamison is over 6’9″ and plays as such, which is fine if you do and I accept you as a person.) Jamal Crawford is a ton of fun to watch, but a rotation with him, Darren Collison, and Matt Barnes is about as erratic as it gets.
Why You Should Watch: Uh.
Asking The Other Side: Los Angeles Clippers blogger Fred Katz of ESPN TrueHoop Los Angeles Clippers blog Clipperblog.
Most important move: This has to be the acquisition of Doc Rivers. Sure, the Clippers traded Eric Bledsoe for J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, but that was much more of a lateral move than the one on the bench. The biggest part of this move wasn’t so much that they brought in a big-name coach. It had to more to do with the actual upgrade. Former Clippers’ coach Vinny Del Negro was one of the more inconsistent coaches in the league and at times looked helpless calling plays, running a defense, and mending a decent rotation. Meanwhile, Rivers is arguably a top-five coach, who comes to L.A. with instant credibility. The upgrade is immeasurable.
Expectations? My official preseason wins prediction is 58, which should be good enough to contend for a No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Clips won 56 games last year and with improvements both to the roster and the bench, they should be able to increase that total. However, the West will be stronger this year so it’s going to be tough for anyone to surpass 60 wins.
What’s the team system? The Clippers finished 19th in pace last season, but watch for them to play even slower this year. Last year’s bench unit kept that ranking as high as it was and with Eric Bledsoe gone and a new coaching staff coming in, expect a different, more controlled second-unit offense.
As for the first unit, Chris Paul loves working in the half-court offense. We’ll see plenty of pick-and-roll, as we always do with Paul, but one of the biggest changes from last year might be in off-ball movement. The Clippers now have some excellent off-ball movers to complement the best point guard in the league. That includes incoming players like Redick and Dudley and returning ones like Matt Barnes. The Clippers can load the floor with shooters. That’s something they’ll do. It’s a strategy Rivers loves to employ.
Matching up with Brooklyn: The Nets are one of the scarier matchups for the Clips. Kevin Garnett can blow up Chris Paul-Blake Griffin pick-and-rolls all day – or at least for 20 minutes a day. Brook Lopez is bigger than DeAndre Jordan and can exploit Jordan’s sometimes shaky post defense. The Clippers’ biggest matchup advantage probably comes on the sidelines. Jason Kidd is still a question mark and it’s always tough for a first-year coach to go up against a championship-caliber coach like Doc Rivers.
The Los Angeles Clippers in under 100 words:
Ignoring the actual pace of the game, the Clippers could have a similar makeup to those mid-2000s Suns teams. That offense could be the best in the league, but the defense relies mainly on system. There aren’t too many terrific individual defenders on the roster and that means the Clips are putting most of their defensive eggs in Doc Rivers’ basket.