NBA: Clippers vs Lakers: Grading Each Los Angeles Starter Against Each Other
So far this season, the Clippers and the Lakers are two of the best teams in the Western Conference. In the 2011-2012 season, the teams have split the two regular-season games and are looking for regular-season bragging rights in their final matchup on April 4.
It is safe to say that both of these teams are equally matched—but not at every position.
Let’s take a look at how each player is graded against each other at their respective position. The ratings will be on a 10-point scale included with half points. Most of the analyses will deal with statistics but will include some of the intangibles the players bring to the table.
Point Guard: Chris Paul vs. Derek Fisher
Chris Paul is the best point guard in the NBA.
Paul is averaging 18.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game—he also averages 2.3 steals per game. Aside from how Paul produces on the court, he always finds a way to make his teammates better. Paul is an elite point guard who will likely be enshrined in the Hall of Fame once he hangs up his sneakers.
Paul is a great shooter, an incredible passer, and he has a knack for coming up big when his team needs him the most. Paul has been a Clipper for fewer than 50 games but has sparked more energy out of his teammates than any other player would dream of.
Chris Paul’s Rating: 10/10
Derek Fisher is the worst starting point guard in the NBA.
Fisher is averaging 5.1 points, two rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. Of the 32 games Fisher has started this year he has scored in double digits only five times—he also has failed to score a point in four games. Fisher used to be a half way decent point guard, but now he is just making a fool of himself and his legacy.
Fisher is not a great passer and he is not known for scoring at will, but Fisher comes up big more than Chris Paul ever would when his team needs him, and that will never change.
Unfortunately for Fisher, if he produced more for his team, the Lakers would not be in a situation where he would need to hit those big shots. To speak of Fisher and Paul in the same sentence is insulting for Chris Paul.
Derek Fisher’s Rating: 2.5/10 (And that is being generous)
Winner: Chris Paul, by a landslide.
Shooting Guard: Randy Foye vs. Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is the second-best shooting guard of all time and the fifth-best player to ever play basketball.
Kobe is averaging 29 points, 5.9 rebounds, and five assists per game. If it weren’t for the lopsided matchup between Fisher and Paul, the matchup of Kobe and Foye would be the most lopsided. Kobe is the Lakers' best player and is the only reason why they are so successful in such an odd year. Kobe found the fountain of youth, and he is not sharing the juice with anyone.
Kobe is still shooting at a decent percentage (44 percent from the field and 84 percent from the free-throw line), and he is still putting the Lakers in a position to win on a nightly basis—something Foye will never be able to do.
Kobe Bryant’s Rating: 10/10
Randy Foye is an average player who is only in a starting role because of an injury to Chauncey Billups.
Foye is averaging 8.2 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. Foye is used to playing point guard, but as I alluded to earlier, Foye is only playing at the shooting guard position because of an injury to Billups. Foye is a decent role player, and he has been playing up to par with what has been expected of him so far.
Foye is not an efficient shooter, but he is great at handling the ball, which is something the Lakers are not so great at.
Randy Foye’s Rating: 4/10
Winner: Kobe Bryant, and it is not even close.
Small Forward: Caron Butler vs. Metta World Peace
Caron Butler is one of the most underrated players in the NBA.
Butler is averaging 14.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. Butler, like World Peace, is one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA. Butler is more than a role player for the Clippers—he is an essential piece for the team.
Butler is equally great at scoring and defending the opposition’s best player. Butler has been battling injuries his whole life, and it may have forced him to lose a step or two. Regardless of the injuries, Butler is an important player for the Clippers.
Caron Butler’s Rating: 6/10
Metta World Peace
Metta World Peace is still the NBA’s best perimeter defender.
World Peace is averaging 4.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 0.7 steals per game. World Peace is not about the statistics. World Peace is about getting in the head of his opposing player and team. World Peace makes sure to lock down the other team's best player. Even though World Peace does not score a lot, he has been known to make clutch shots or clutch defensive plays when his team needs him.
World Peace’s influence on the Lakers will never show up on the stat sheet, but this year World Peace is not getting it done like he used to. Butler would likely benefit the Lakers more than World Peace does because of his offensive production. World Peace’s age is showing, but his defensive prowess will never leave him.
Metta World Peace’s Rating: 5/10
Winner: Caron Butler, by a hair.
Power Forward: Blake Griffin vs. Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol is the NBA’s best power forward.
Gasol is averaging 16.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. The statistics don’t show up for Gasol in this matchup, but if any basketball fan has watched him play, they know how great he really is. Gasol is a guard trapped in a big man’s body. Gasol can run a fast break, hit a couple of three-pointers, nail 18-footers, and shoot efficiently from the free-throw line—Gasol shoots 79 percent from the free-throw line compared to Griffin who shoots 53 percent from the “charity stripe.”
Gasol’s intangibles are what give him the slight edge over Griffin.
Pau Gasol’s Rating: 9/10
Blake Griffin is not the best power forward in the NBA, but he is the most exciting player in the game.
Griffin is averaging 21.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. Griffin is known for his breathtaking dunks, but he knows how to effectively produce on offense outside of his dunking ability. Griffin is the biggest name in the NBA’s new youth movement and will be a big part of the NBA for the next decade.
Griffin is definitely a great player, but if he relies on his athletic ability, he may not be as effective in the latter part of his career. Griffin is an incredible talent, but Gasol is an overall better player than Griffin because of how well he plays without such exceptional talent. Gasol would never be able to dunk like Griffin, but Griffin is not as efficient, and efficiency is more important than dunking when it comes to winning championships.
Blake Griffin’s Rating: 8.5/10
Winner: Pau Gasol, for now.
Center: DeAndre Jordan vs. Andrew Bynum
Andrew Bynum is the second-best center in the NBA and the best center in the Western Conference.
Bynum is averaging 16.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. Bynum, like Jordan, is very good at protecting his paint—but Jordan does a better job. Bynum does a much better job at scoring and rebounding than Jordan does. As a center, Bynum also has the best footwork and post moves in the NBA—even better than Dwight Howard.
Bynum is finally coming into his own and is proving to the critics and the Lakers organization that he is a force to be reckoned with. Bynum is a much better player than Jordan ever will be.
Bynum needs to become more aggressive if he ever wants to improve his current rating.
Andrew Bynum's Rating: 8/10
DeAndre Jordan is a decent center, but his lack of offensive production will keep him at decent.
Jordan is averaging eight points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game. Jordan is incredible at protecting his paint, but he is equally bad at scoring in another team's paint. The Clippers would be the cream of the crop in the NBA if Jordan learned how to effectively score every night.
Even though Jordan is a great defensive player, his 48 percent free-throw percentage and lack of offensive production is what earns him a lower rating than Andrew Bynum. If Jordan wants to improve his rating he needs to produce more offensively or at least shoot at a higher percentage from the free-throw line.
DeAndre Jordan's Rating: 5.5/10
Winner: Andrew Bynum, without a doubt.
Chris Paul(10/10) vs. Derek Fisher(2.5/10)
Randy Foye(4/10) vs. Kobe Bryant(10/10)
Caron Butler(6/10) vs. Metta World Peace(5/10)
Blake Griffin(8.5/10) vs. Pau Gasol(9/10)
DeAndre Jordan(5.5/10) vs. Andrew Bynum(8/10)
Clippers Starting Five: 34/50
Lakers Starting Five: 34.5/50
The Lakers and Clippers seem to match up evenly. The ratings of both teams' individual players do not mean that one team is better or worse than the other. Both the Lakers and Clippers benches are thin, but the edge goes to the Clippers because of Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe.
One thing is for certain, the Lakers and Clippers are full of talent and will likely meet in the playoffs for an epic seven-game series, regardless of what shake-ups occur with either team's personnel.
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