Six Things to Know About the Los Angeles Clippers

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Clipper All-Star
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Repped High Quality Post ... -clippers/

When the Los Angeles Clippers decided to hire Doc Rivers as their head coach and VP of Basketball Operations, we all knew it would come with some lofty expectations. Even though they've had several key injuries, they've found a way to stay within just a few games of the Western Conference's top teams through the first half of the season.

#1 Blake Griffin is far from "just a dunker" if you hadn't noticed.

If the phrase, "all Blake Griffin does is dunk" has come out of your mouth this year, then you simply have not been watching the young man play. Not only has he increased his range and clearly worked on his post game, but he has also developed into a player that can put the ball on the floor and become an above-average playmaker for a man of his size and position. He still has room for improvement as a rim-protector and on-ball defender in the post, but has even made significant strides in that department in his fifth season.

Those that don't care for him, whatever their reason(s), will likely find ways to dismiss his progress, but that doesn't make it the reality. The truth is, while Chris Paul is clearly the verbal leader of the team, Griffin's progression has placed him alongside his point guard as one of the team's leaders in terms of productivity and overall impact. Make no mistake about it, he can and will still dunk on an entire front line if they are foolish enough to get caught in his path once he takes off, but that's no longer his only means of scoring.

#2 DeAndre Jordan is one of the most improved players in the NBA.

Not only did the organization reportedly attempt to move Jordan for more proven and familiar veteran leadership in the form of Kevin Garnett during the offseason, but he was openly questioned by many as the definitive "weak link" on the team once it was established the transaction would not be permitted by the league. Likely due to a combination of being motivated by this fact and partly as a a result of Coach Rivers' influence, but Jordan has looked like a new man for the Clippers in 2013-14.

He's averaging just about double-digit points (9.7 PPG), and well over that mark in rebounds at 13.7 per contest. He's nearly doubled his rebounds per game average in just one season, having averaged just 7.2 per game in 2012-13. Even though his free throw percentage (40.3) is clearly still abysmal, he doesn't take enough (4.1) for it to truly have a negative impact on most games. More than anything, this team needs him to clean up the offensive glass and be a rim protector on the other end. At third in the league in blocks per game (2.5), he actually has the most blocks on the season with 110 through 44 games played. Jordan's stock is definitely on the rise, as he finally appears to be developing into the player this team has sorely lacked.

#3 They've successfully endured the first two weeks of Chris Paul's absence.

Although it is never a good thing to be without a guy like Paul, as stated, they've found a way to make up for his absence from within. Guys like Darren Collison and J.J. Redick have increased their playmaking, but we really have to reiterate just how well-rounded Griffin's game is becoming. While providing just around his career average (3.5 APG) on the year, through eight games of Paul's absence, Griffin is right around 5.4 APG from the power forward position. This team is only likely to go as far as a healthy Paul takes them, but it must feel good to know they can still compete in his absence from an overall team confidence perspective.

#4 Doc Rivers' imprint can already be seen.

J.J. Redick has done a phenomenal job serving as the "Ray Allen" role in the offense. While there may have been questions about the acquisition upon first finding out, Redick has more than quieted any such doubts. Through varied forms of motivation and due to their dedication to being the best they can be, the young front line of Griffin and Jordan has developed into one of the better big man duos the league currently has. The next challenge for Rivers will be continuing to further solidify the team's defense. While they can block shots, shoot the passing lanes for steals and lock in at times, in order to ultimately be successful they'll need to find a way to provide the same effort and dedication to schemes and basic defensive principles on a more consistent basis.

#5 If healthy, they can be a contender in the Western Conference.

While we certainly wouldn't consider them the overall favorites, the Clippers have shown the ability to compete with the other Western Conference elites. With a 7-5 record against teams currently in (WC) playoff positions, including a road loss to the Spurs in the game Paul went down with the injury, they appear to be a team building the type of momentum and confidence it takes to translate that success into the postseason.

They're one of the highest scoring teams in the league averaging 105.8 points per contest, but are just 14th in points allowed (100.2) per game. Even though that clearly isn't the worst in the league, you'd have to imagine Coach Rivers would feel more comfortable if they were able to shave a few points off that average and find a way into the top 10. As we've seen in recent years, once the playoffs begin for the Clippers, it will be about making enough plays on both ends in order to compete; and this year will be no exception.

#6 Although very deep, you can never have too many playmakers.

Much of the reason the Clippers have struggled in the last couple playoff runs is due to their inability to make enough plays in the crucial and waning moments of ballgames. The Grizzlies have been one of the better defensive teams over that stretch, so it should come as no surprise they've been the Clippers' Achilles heel. While Vinny Del Negro was criticized for perhaps having relied too much upon Paul isolating or even coming off a pick at the top of the key in signature moments, Rivers has the regular season to not only develop more complex offensive schemes, but also find additional playmakers he can trust when the pressure is truly on.

It appears Rivers has already toyed with the idea of permanently replacing Jared Dudley in the starting lineup with Matt Barnes; leaving a plethora of shooters, but very few slashers and rim attackers along the perimeter in that second lineup. Darren Collison has been a very positive addition, and (for the most part) has filled in admirably for Paul. With that said, the thought of developing or even adding one more perimeter ballhandler and playmaker by the time the playoffs roll around certainly wouldn't be the worst of ideas.

Only time will tell whether this team can stay healthy enough to compete come playoff time, but Rivers and company definitely appear to be on the right path. Sometimes, the best deals are the ones that never transpired, as Clippers fans have to be happy both Jordan and even the recently-rumored Griffin are still in the red, white and blue.

Clipper All-Star
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Location: Palmdale Ca.
votes: 5

What an excellent written topic! Super Super

Clipper All-Star
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votes: 9

Nice post. 6 good points.

Posts: 4672
Location: The Darkside
votes: 37

How dare someone write a great article about the lowly Clippers. Everyone knows we are an evil team. Ask the refs.

Nice find,uplifting. Thanks

Clipper All-Star
Posts: 1478
Location: North Hollywoooooood 818
votes: 12

Good little write up.. It is extremely funny though how people always like to say all blake could do is dunk but drool at the thought of Blake going to their team..

Posts: 5129
votes: 29

Here's an excellent article on how the Clippers are coping without Paul:

When the news broke that Chris Paul would miss six weeks with a separated right shoulder, the prevailing theory was that Los Angeles Clippers' chances of securing a top-four seed -- and thus having a realistic chance at competing for an NBA title -- were in jeopardy.

Nine games into Paul's absence, that hasn't been the case.

The Clippers have won six of nine -- they're 7-3 without him overall -- and are outscoring opponents by 5.1 points per 100 possessions, which is nearly identical to their season-long net rating of +5.7 points per 100 possessions.

How have they survived without him?

  1. Redick's return

Among Clippers that have played 250 or more minutes this season, J.J. Redick has the highest net rating (+10.0). With Redick on the floor, the Clippers' offense is at its peak (112.8 offensive rating), a notably higher mark than when Paul (108.4 offensive rating), Blake Griffin (108.0) or DeAndre Jordan (107.9) take the hardwood.

Redick's off-ball movement around baseline screens and pin-downs has to be accounted for at all times, effectively shifting defenses to allow Griffin room to operate from the left block or high post, or Darren Collison and Jordan to run high pick-and-rolls.

Often labeled as just a shooter, Redick is an underrated passer and secondary ball-handler, and has surprisingly been Los Angeles' most consistent perimeter defender. He's arguably been the team's most valuable player statistically, which is saying a lot considering the seasons Paul and Griffin are having.

  1. Griffin's evolution

Without Paul, Griffin has taken on a superstar burden offensively.

Over the last nine games, he's averaging 24.8 points and 5 assists and, despite his usage rate skyrocketing to a career-high 29.0 percent, has also managed to improve his field-goal percentage (FG%) from 52.4 percent to 53.9 percent.

Griffin's free throw shooting -- once a clear weakness -- has become a strength. He's shooting 75.8 percent since Dec. 1, which has given him the confidence to face up, leverage his speed and athleticism against slower defenders, and draw more fouls (he's averaging 10.4 free-throw attempts without Paul).

Defensively, Griffin continues to develop under Rivers' tutelage. His lateral quickness allows him to disrupt passing lanes and pickpocket ball-handlers when hedging on pick and rolls -- he's averaging 1.8 steals over the last nine games. Already an underrated post defender, Griffin is finally beginning to grasp the intricacies of help defense and back line rotations, adding another layer to his versatile skill set.

  1. Defensive improvement

Since Dec. 1, the Clippers have allowed 100.2 points per 100 possessions, the fourth-best mark in the league. However, since Jan. 4 -- the first game they played without Paul -- the Clippers have allowed 103.0 points per 100 possessions, good for 10th-best over that span.

That has more to do with two blowout losses against the San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers than anything else, as Los Angeles has actually been marginally better defensively with Paul off the floor this season -- they have a 100.6 defensive rating when he sits, and 101.5 defensive rating when he plays.

Regardless, Los Angeles' newfound defensive competence has kept them in games in which their offense is struggling, and allowed them to withstand late rallies against Boston, Dallas and Detroit.

The bulk of the improvement stems from Jordan. Opponents are shooting 51.5 percent at the rim against him (still a slightly below-average number), which is a steep decline from the low 60s percentage he was allowing at the start of the season. His defense has improved on a weekly basis, and he's now second behind Paul George in Defensive Win Shares (3.2).

The Clippers are undoubtedly outperforming expectations defensively. Outside of the Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, the Clippers are the only team ranked in the top eight of both offensive and defensive efficiency.

  1. Adjusting the rotation

One of Doc Rivers' greatest attributes as a coach is his foresight to admit when a rotation tweak isn't working, and then make the proper adjustments.

Jared Dudley, who has struggled with inconsistent shooting all season, had started every game until Monday against Detroit, when Rivers chose to start Matt Barnes instead. It's too early to know all the ramifications of the move, but Rivers believes it will pay off by adding off-ball movement to the starting lineup and shooting to the bench.

Additionally, even though Darren Collison -- who's averaged 13.4 points, 6.4 assists and 1.6 steals on 50.0 percent shooting from the field and 39.1 percent shooting from deep in Paul's place -- has played exceptionally well, Rivers has finished some games with Jamal Crawford at point guard to ensure Redick and either Dudley or Barnes are out there for defensive purposes.

In an attempt to limit the damage the second-unit big men have done defensively and on the glass, Rivers also recently cut Ryan Hollins' minutes even further and took Antawn Jamison out of the rotation. Now, Dudley, Barnes or the newly acquired Hedo Turkoglu man the backup power forward position, and Griffin and Hollins back up Jordan in spot minutes.

  1. A favorable schedule

If there were ever a preferred chunk of the schedule for Paul to miss 15 to 20 games, this would be it. Of the 20 games between Jan. 3 (when Paul was injured) and the All-Star break (his projected return date), 13 are against the Eastern Conference (only one against Miami and one against Indiana).

Despite the length of the Grammy road trip, only three of the seven teams -- Indiana, Chicago and Toronto -- are .500 or better. And Chicago (13-8) and Toronto (11-9) aren't particularly dominant home teams.

The Clippers ran into two unfortunate "schedule losses" -- road games on the second night of a back-to-back -- in San Antonio and Indiana, but besides those two contests, they have a relatively easy schedule the rest of the way.

Road games in Golden State and Denver will be tough, as well as home games against Miami and Portland, but the Clippers have a legitimate shot to go 7-4 or 8-3 over their next 11 games without Paul.

Stats used in this post are from, and ... ithout-cp3

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