Clippers Are Close but Need to Fill These Holes to Be a Championship Roster

Jason KiangContributor IJanuary 26, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 04:  Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers celebrates with teammates after the game with the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on January 4, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  The Clippers won 117-89.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

So far, Lob City is a work in progress.  On some nights, one can see the pieces falling into place.  On others, not so much.  Here's a few things I've noticed from a playing perspective so far. 

1) Chris Paul and Blake Griffin need to go and watch some Stockton and Malone tape.  Seriously.  These two should be Stockton to Malone 2.0, but for some reason it seems no one ever taught Blake how to set and execute a proper screen and roll. 

Instead, he elects to slip the pick 90 percent of the time for a pop.  This renders him useless as he's not yet a consistent threat with his jump shot and won't be this year no matter how many times he tries. 

I'm not saying he'll never be a good shooter, but it takes time.  He still fades and his shots way too much and hangs too long and mentally, you can just tell he doesn't quite trust it yet, which is also a big part of shooting.  He should be rolling to the basket nearly every time.

2) Chris Paul needs to speed up the pace.  Everyone thought with two athletic and quick bigs like Deandre Jordan and Griffin that the Clippers would be a running team, but with Paul running the show, that hasn't really been the case. 

Many a time, Griffin beats everyone down the court only to have things slowed up by Paul, who prefers to get into a halfcourt set.  That's all well and good, but when your power forward can outrun his defender and sky like Griffin can, you should look to push the ball.

3 )The Chauncey Billups experiment at shooting guard is serviceable, but it's not a long term solution.  While it's nice to have a floor spreading, heady veteran at 2 guard like Chauncey, one can see the conflicting play between him and Paul on the floor. 

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 14:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers is fouled as he attempts a dunk on Matt Barnes #9 and Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 102-94 Clipper win at Staples Center on January 14, 2012 in Los Angeles,
Harry How/Getty Images

They are still taking turns bringing the ball up the floor, and many shot-clock possessions are spent with Billups organizing the play on one side of the ball, then swinging it to Paul and Paul doing the same on the other side. 

The problem is, by the time a play actually unfolds, the shot clock is spent and a poor shot results. 

The Clippers would be better suited with (and it pains me to say) an Eric Gordon, a natural 2, who is more aggressive in creating his own shot, while still able to make plays for others. 

Billups is still a great shooter, but you won't find him breaking down the defense and making plays, as he more or less shot fakes and elects for mid-range jumpers most of the time, something the Clippers already have in Caron Butler. 

The Clips need a 2 who can take it to the rim and finish, get fouled, or make a play for others.  At 35 and with the mentality of a PG, Billups is not that guy. 

I'd much rather prefer Billups coming off the bench as a backup PG, something I don't see him willing to do in the near future.  But I'll tell you who could be the solution...

4) J.R. Smith!  I know what you're thinking.  Say what?!  When's the last time a head case like J.R. Smith was the solution for anything?

Yes, it's true.  J.R. brings baggage wherever he goes and that's unfortunate, because he has immense talent.  But that seems to be the trend these days.  Vastly talented players, who often bring headcase problems with them.  Such are the circumstances, though. 

The fact of the matter is J.R.'s the only 2 guard available who can replace the skill set lost in Eric Gordon.  He can shoot, he's athletic, he can finish at the rim and he can make plays for others.  Most importantly, he'll be a free agent upon his return in March and won't command a huge salary. 

He's willing to come off the bench as a sixth man, something he did for Denver, and if he works out, may be willing to sign for the long term as a reasonable price, 10 mil or less.  But the Clips already have a sixth man in Mo Williams.  That leads me to my next point.

5) Trade Mo Williams.  Yes, Mo's been playing excellent this year coming off the bench, but with second-year PG Eric Bledsoe returning, Mo's 9 million/year contract, and back up C and 2 positions in need, it would be better to part ways with Mo, either this year or in the summer. 

Besides, do you really think he will embrace being a 6th man for more than one year?  Mo believes himself a starting quality PG, which he is, and I believe both he and the Clippers will come to that resolution by next year. 

Trading his contract for a backup 7 footer who can at least be an offensive threat in terms of finishing around the rim or being able to shoot a mid-range shot would relieve a lot of pressure, as well as allow the Clips to play Reggie Evans and not worry about his total lack of offense hindering spacing as much. 

Getting a backup 2/3 in the deal would be nice as well.  Someone like Mickael Piertrus who can shoot and defend at the 2 and 3 positions was had by Boston for the minimum.  Get someone like him.

The Clippers are definitely still a work in progress.  They have some good pieces and I think they'll get as far as the semis this year, but they will have to iron some things out come next year to truly be able to contend. 

Hopefully, they can get J.R. and commit to him long term as either the starting 2 or a sixth man role (perhaps move Caron to 6th man if J.R. starts, as I see it being too many guys who needs shots in that particular starting line up), find a 2/3 backup with size and a backup C who has at least some offense. 

Nazr Mohammed?    If they can get some value for Mo's contract and fill out their roster, rather than just dump it, I don't see any reason Lob City won't be skying for the trophy as soon as next year. 

That is assuming they don't renew Vinny Del Negro's contract and hire Tom Thibodeau from the Bulls, but that's another story.  That's my bit.  Neil Olshey, I hope you're reading this!