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2013-2014 Los Angeles Clippers Season Preview
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On September 24, 2013 @ 8:53 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The Clippers brought in Doc Rivers, the coach they believed was the best in the league — giving up an unprotected first-round pick to the Boston Celtics. L.A. aggressively added talent to join Paul including J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Darren Collison and Byron Mullens. The team also re-signed Matt Barnes, a valuable contributor in last year’s 56-win season.
Gone are Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups, but the Clippers still have depth. Where they will be tested most is inside the paint — are Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan enough defensively?
Yes or no — the Clippers should be an elite team in the Western Conference, expecting a deep playoff run.
- Eric Pincus
Additions: J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Darren Collison, Reggie Bullock, Byron Mullens, Antawn Jameson.
Subtractions: Eric Bledsoe, Chauncey Billups, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, Ronny Turiaf.
This offseason could not have gone better for the Clippers. To get All-Star point guard Chris Paul to agree to a long-term contract extension before free agency even started is a true sign of just how far this franchise has come in a short period of time. This season they will be fielding arguably their most talented team ever. They also have one of the best signal callers in the league running the show in Doc Rivers. As far as the ingredients for a championship team go, the Clippers have almost everything required: star power, great depth and quality coaching. The only thing that’s lacking is chemistry, which can negate everything else the Clippers have going for them if they don’t come together and get on the same page. That’s where Rivers should help a great deal, though. Interior defense still isn’t going to be a strength of this team, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t win the Pacific Division. If it improves, we’re looking at a championship caliber team.
1st place – Pacific Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
The Clippers won 56 games last season, but that didn’t stop them from being one of the most active teams this offseason. The team re-signed Chris Paul, hired Doc Rivers and added J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Darren Collison, Byron Mullens, Antawn Jamison and Reggie Bullock among others. Expectations are very high for the Clippers heading into this season because they have all of the necessary components to contend in the Western Conference. Last year, the Clippers were a good team, but it always seemed like they were sitting a tier below the elite teams in the West and lacking the head coach to lead them deep in the playoffs. Now, all of the pieces are in place and, if all goes as planned, this team could win it all.
1st place – Pacific Division
- Alex Kennedy
Over the past two seasons the Clippers have posted the best win percentages in franchise history. Not surprisingly this success is directly tied to the arrival of All-Star guard Chris Paul into town. Not resting on the success, the team’s front office put together a marvelous summer securing head coach Doc Rivers to lead the team and adding a fine supporting cast featuring Darren Collison, Byron Mullens, Antawn Jamison, J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley. But at the end of the day the fate of the Clippers will be decided by the play of Paul and All-Star forward Blake Griffin come playoff time. Griffin has heard his share of criticism this offseason after a disappointing playoff showing and the young forward needs to show growth under pressure. Former Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford will add additional firepower for a team expected to reach the Western Conference Finals, as the bare minimum.
1st Place – Pacific Division
- Lang Greene
An immense amount of credit is due to Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Since acquiring Chris Paul in December 2011, the organization has spared no expense in trying to build the Clippers into a championship contender. That approach was on full display this past offseason, with the Clippers signing Doc Rivers to try to lead their team to the promise land. After also bringing in J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes and Antawn Jamison, the team seems poised to repeat as Pacific Division champions. The club’s humbling first-round loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in last year’s playoffs brought to light the team’s major obstacle in that quest—an overall lack of efficient post-up offense. Despite the strong supporting cast, the Clippers will only go as far as Paul and Blake Griffin can carry them. Fortunately for fans of Los Angeles’ “other team,” that is pretty far. Whether the Clippers can rise above the Grizzlies, Houston Rockets or any other such team intent on brutalizing them on the interior remains to be seen. But for this season, the Pacific Division should be a right battle between the Clippers and the Golden State Warriors. In such an instance, it is normally wise to bet on the top player. Here, clearly, that is still Paul.
1st Place — Pacific Division
— Moke Hamilton
As if Los Angeles weren’t excited enough about Lob City already, the Clippers went into the summer looking to add even more talent to one of the most loaded rosters in the NBA. The most important addition of the summer was clearly new head coach Doc Rivers, which is a massive, massive upgrade over the outgoing Vinny Del Negro. More importantly, his hire was the reason Chris Paul ultimately re-signed with the team, which was the linchpin in L.A.’s excellent offseason overhaul. Losing Eric Bledsoe wasn’t something fans wanted to see, but turning him into J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley was an upgrade, and Darren Collison is a more than affable backup point guard. These guys are going to run opponents out of the gym this year, and they’ll head into the 2013-2014 season as likely favorites to win the Western Conference.
1st Place – Pacific Division
– Joel Brigham
Top Offensive Player: Chris Paul. The team’s former coach, Vinny Del Negro, used to joke that the system the Clippers’ ran was the “Chris Paul Offense.” Rivers isn’t likely to stray too far from that notion. Paul will make most of the decisions, most of the time. While he prefers to set up his teammates with a pass, Paul often rises to the occasion when his team needs a game-winning basket.
Top Defensive Player: DeAndre Jordan. This is the moment for Jordan to break through as a defensive anchor. With his speed, size and athleticism. Jordan will truly be the center of the Clippers’ defensive attack. Can he live up to that? Will his abysmal free throw shooting make him impossible to play in important situations? There’s a reason the Clippers tried to trade Jordan for Kevin Garnett (formerly with the Boston Celtics) — they’re not sure he can.
Top Playmaker: Chris Paul. The All-Star point guard was deserved selected to the 2012-13 All-NBA First Team. Paul averaged 16.9 points a game on 48.1% shooting with 9.7 assists a game. Be it in the half court or, transition Paul is one of the game’s top decision makers. His talent, competitiveness and forceful leadership makes him the Clippers’ most valuable player. With even more finishers on the roster, Paul should have a strong year as a playmaker.
Clutch Player: Chris Paul. Paul will orchestrate most of the Clippers’ offense. Whether he’s creating for others or taking the ball to the basket, Paul is a very difficult cover for most teams. With the game on the line, the ball is going to be in Paul’s hands. He might not take the shot, but he’s going to make the play. The Clippers hope that they’ve added the right pieces around Paul to make him nearly unstoppable.
The Unheralded Player: Jared Dudley. Dudley was an emerging role player with the Phoenix Suns but the team began the rebuilding effort, finishing 15th in the Western Conference after sending Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers. Dudley can play either shooting guard or small forward. He’s a strong defender and efficient spot-up shooter. The veteran is a strong locker room presence and, along with J.J. Redick, the key pieces the Clippers acquired in return for Eric Bledsoe/Caron Butler.
Best New Addition: J.J. Redick. With the ball in Paul’s hands and Blake Griffin working out of the post, the Clippers need true shooters to space the floor — enter J.J. Redick. Acquired via sign and trade from the Milwaukee Bucks, Redick projects to start at shooting guard. The veteran shooter is going to make it difficult for teams to double team the Clippers’ big stars if he shoots at or above his 39% career three-point percentage.
- Eric Pincus
1. Chris Paul: Paul is arguably the best point guard in the NBA. What’s not to like? He likes to pass first but can take over a game with his scoring. He’s an aggressive defender, despite his lack of height. He’s a leader through and through, taking the blame when things go wrong – always humble when the Clippers win.
2. Blake Griffin: Griffin is still developing as a player but he’s one of the most explosive players in the game. While he’s best known as a dunker, Griffin is a gifted passer. If Doc Rivers and the coaching staff can help improve Griffin’s fundamentals, the Clippers are going to thrive. Where Griffin needs to improve most is on the defensive end. He also needs a steadier jump shot – but as is, he’s already one of the league’s top power forwards.
3. Doc Rivers: Rivers comes into his position with the Clippers armed with the cachet of an NBA Title in two NBA Finals appearances. He commands the respect of his players – straddling the line of players coach and disciplinarian about as well as anyone in the league. Rivers is demanding of his players but he doesn’t turn then off – well in most cases (except perhaps Rajon Rondo). The Clippers have improved their roster but they also upgraded from Vinny Del Negro, who did a good job with the team. At this point, the Clippers want more than good, they want elite. Rivers is one of the best and the Clippers pushed hard to get him out of his contract with the Boston Celtics.
4. Wing/Backcourt Depth: Can any team boast the kind of depth the Clippers have at guard and small forward? With Chris Paul, Darren Collison, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Willie Green, Matt Barnes, Jared Dudley, Maalik Wayns and Reggie Bullock, the Clippers are just loaded. Rivers has slashers, creators, scorers, shooters, finishers and defenders to throw at the opposition. Managing minutes won’t be easy given the long list of capable players.
5. Jamal Crawford: When the Clippers need scoring, Crawford is one of the best sixth men in the league. He’s an exciting ball-handler, shooter and all-purpose point generator. With players like Paul and Griffin, defenders can only do so much. Trying to contain Crawford too can be nearly impossible – especially now that the team added shooters like J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley. The Clippers will score a lot of points and Crawford will be a big reason why.
- Eric Pincus
The Clippers have serious depth, led by a championship-level coach. The two stars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, complemented by a long list of quality players. Darren Collison is a starting-caliber reserve at point guard. Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes can all shoot, score and (some) can even play defense. Blake Griffin often commands double-teams inside. He and DeAndre Jordan make up arguably the most athletic tandem inside the paint. Los Angeles has a load of talent and with Rivers and Paul, the leadership to contend this season.
- Eric Pincus
Griffin improved to 66% from the free-throw line last season — a big step from the previous year’s 52.1%. Given Jordan’s meager 38.6% from the line, Griffin can’t afford to take a step backwards. Can Rivers keep Jordan on the floor or will intentional fouls (and missed free throws) force him to the bench? Behind Griffin and Jordan, the Clippers have Antawn Jamison Byron Mullens and Ryan Hollins. Mullens may have untapped potential, but will he reach it? Neither Jamison nor Mullens is a noted defender. With the additions of Dudley, Collison, Redick and rookie Reggie Bullock, the Clippers hope to be improved at last year’s biggest flaw, defending the three-point shot.
- Eric Pincus
Can Doc Rivers get enough defensively out of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan?
The Clippers are heavily reliant on the combination of Griffin and Jordan. If Griffin is hurt, the team has just Jamison and Mullens to fall back on. Injuries come and go and the Clippers may be fine relying on Griffin – but Jordan is a bigger question mark. If he’s not hitting free throws and rebounding at a below average rate for a seven-footer, can Rivers keep him on the floor? Does Griffin slide up to center or can Mullens and Hollins handle it. Griffin has yet to show he can make a true impact defensively. If he’s playing five alongside defensively challenged players like Jamison and Mullens, what then? The issues may not manifest during the regular season but come playoffs, that’s what Rivers will need to solve as head coach.
- Eric Pincus
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