Los Angeles Clippers: 12 Things Clips Must Do to Build on the 2011-12 Season
2011 was, by definition, the best season in the Los Angeles Clippers history.
They had their best winning percentage in the team's 42-year history, Blake Griffin was their first NBA second teamer since Elton Brand in 2006 and Chris Paul was their first NBA first teamer since Bob McAdoo in 1975 (back then the Clippers were the Buffalo Braves).
Needless to say, the Clippers didn't have to set the world on fire to break team records.
Since moving to Los Angeles in 1984, every time the Clippers made the playoffs (a whopping five times in 28 years), they failed to have a winning season the next year.
In the past, Clippers fans would have been content with this season and gone on living in mediocrity for the next decade.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are trying to change that culture of mediocrity that exists in Clipper Nation.
To build on the momentum they gathered in the 2011-12 season, the Clips are going to need to avoid their typical bone-headed ways and make the same kind of moves that got them to the Western Conference semifinals.
Keep General Manager Neil Olshey
Neil Olshey is one of the biggest reasons why the Clippers had the best season in their history last year.
He was bigger than Vinny Del Negro and bigger than Donald Sterling, not just because of the Chris Paul trade either.
He brought in Kenyon Martin from China in early February and got Nick Young from the Wizards. He also signed Caron Butler, Reggie Evans and Chauncey Billups in the offseason.
It is easy to say that the Clippers would not have gotten past the Grizzlies in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs without those acquisitions.
Currently, Olshey does not have a contract with the Clippers for next season.
The Blazers, who need a GM badly, are in hot pursuit of him, according to OregonLive.com. We all know that Paul Allen will have no problem paying Olshey the big bucks.
It is imperative that the Clippers keep Olshey if they want this team headed in the right direction.
You don't start building a mansion, stop after laying the foundation and hire a new architect.
Re-Sign Chauncey Billups
Although Chauncey Billups found himself coaching from the sideline due to an injury, he needs to come back next season to coach on the court.
There is not certainty that Billups will be ready to go at the start of the season. He'll be 36 by the time next season starts and is trying to come back from a torn Achilles tendon.
Still, as someone who watched almost every single Clippers game this season, it was obvious that Billups was impacting the team from the sideline.
Billups will be a head coach in this league some day, and while the Clippers are stuck with Vinny Del Negro as head coach next season, his negative impact will be lessened by the influence of Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups.
So re-sign Billups, not for his playing ability (although once he returns from injury he could be a serviceable backup two guard) but for his veteran leadership.
Big Men Need to Improve Free-Throw Shooting
Two Clippers starters, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, finished with free-throw percentages of 52 percent. Reggie Evans, who didn't start, but got decent minutes in the second half of the season, finished at 51 percent.
That is pathetic.
I don't care who you are. If you are a starter in the National Basketball Association, you need to make your free throws.
The lack of free-throw ability from Clippers big men is probably the team's biggest offensive liability.
It's why DeAndre Jordan typically got subbed out late in playoff games and Blake Griffin didn't play the final 2:26 against the Grizzlies in Game 7.
When you have to sub out your starters late in games because they can't make free throws, your team has a legitimate problem.
Clippers, please do something about this.
Blake Griffin Must Develop a Mid-Range Jumper
LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph, Kevin Love and Pau Gasol all have something in common (besides being starting power forwards in Western Conference, abnormally large human beings and making more money this year than I probably ever will in my life).
They all have a jump shot.
Blake Griffin, on the other hand, does not.
Defenses fear those players because of their mid-range shooting ability. Big men who can shoot the ball well open up space for the other players on their team.
While we have seen Griffin shoot the ball from outside the paint more often this season, he still has leaps and bounds to go to match the jump shooting ability of the best power forwards in the West.
If Blake Griffin develops a consistent mid-range jump shot a la Tim Duncan, it create a plethora of opportunities for Chris Paul and the rest of the Clippers on the floor.
DeAndre Jordan Needs an Improved Offensive Game
The picture above is of DeAndre Jordan ferociously dunking a basketball.
I chose that picture because that is actually the only thing DeAndre Jordan can do with the basketball in his hands.
In fact, Jordan did not hit a jump shot in an NBA game until Feb. 11, 2012.
That means that DeAndre Jordan did not make a jump shot until the 227th game of his career. That is three full seasons without hitting a jumper!
Jordan signed a four-year, $43 million dollar deal with the Clippers before the start of the 2011-12 season. If the Clippers want to build on the great season they had, they need improvement from DeAndre Jordan.
Several ESPN NBA analysts predicted that Jordan would be the most improved player in the league for 2011-12 and that clearly didn't happen.
I know DeAndre Jordan will never be a consistent jump-shooter in this league, but he must improve on his offensive skill set before next season.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The 2011-12 Clippers were put together on the fly.
Caron Butler signed with the Clippers on Dec. 10, Chauncey Billups was acquired on Dec. 13 and Chris Paul was traded to the Clip Show on Dec. 15.
The season started on Christmas Day, Dec. 25 (in case you forgot).
Kenyon Martin was added to the team 20 games into the season, and Nick Young was added 22 games after that on March 15.
The team was thrown together in a way reminiscent of a group of college buddies trying to get a pick-up game going while they're all home for Christmas break.
The Clippers team that beat the Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs was not the team that started the season and was definitely not the same team the existed pre-December.
The fact that they did as well as they did, with such little practice time, is impressive.
Jelling as a cohesive unit and getting used to playing together is essential if this Clippers team wants a shot at winning the Pacific Division next year.
Although Allen Iverson would scoff at it, I am talking about much-needed practice.
Re-Sign Nick Young
As I said in the previous slide, the Clippers signed Nick Young on March 15 in a trade with the Washington Wizards.
Before I get any further, let me make note of how good of a trade it was for the Clip Show. They gave up dopey Brian Cook (I don't even think he is effective at warming the bench) and a future second-round pick to get Young.
Young ended up being key for the Clippers down the stretch.
In the Clippers' historic Game 1 comeback against the Grizzlies, Young was huge. He hit three three-pointers in a row and may have been the biggest factor in what will be remembered as the greatest Clipper playoff game of all time (not a lot to choose from...I know).
As an unrestricted free agent going into next season, Young's stock will be high because of how he played with the Clippers.
The Clippers need to re-sign Young. Not as a starter, but as a guy who can come off the bench and knock down big shots.
Just speculating here, but if the Clippers re-sign Young, he has to be a preseason candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.
Young is from Los Angeles, went to school in Los Angeles and it's obvious the kid loves L.A.
If there is anywhere he will be happy in a Sixth Man Role, it's Los Angeles.
Figure out the Shooting Guard Position
The Clippers have a plethora of guards, and there is clearly a log jam at that position.
Chauncey Billups, Randy Foye, Mo Williams and Nick Young are all free agents heading into next season.
With none of them currently signed, that leaves exactly two players on the Clippers roster who could play the shooting guard position.
Those players would be Eric Bledsoe and Travis Leslie.
One is going to be the primary backup to Chris Paul next season, and one is nowhere near ready to start for an NBA team come October.
I already said the Clippers should re-sign Young. The big question is whether or not he should be the starter.
I also said the Clips should re-sign Chauncey Billups (who can play PG or SG), but he probably won't be ready to go at the start of the season and definitely isn't starting lineup material at this point in his career.
The big question that remains is whether to re-sign Mo Williams and Randy Foye.
In all honesty, I don't see either one wearing the Clipper uniform next year. Both could be starters on several NBA teams and will probably go that route.
Honestly, I think the Clips will go after someone like Gerald Green or Courtney Lee.
The Clippers need to figure out the shooting guard position if they want to be successful next season.
Get Rid of Donald Sterling
I had to put this one in the slideshow.
I have been a Clippers fan since I was a young lad, and I despise Donald Sterling.
He is the worst owner in professional sports, he is a known racist and, for many years, he did nothing to help the Clippers become a good team.
As good as the Clippers were this year, I truly believe that they will never win an NBA championship until Sterling is gone.
Call it karma, call it a curse, call it whatever, but Donald Sterling does not bring good vibes to the Clippers organization.
I won't take the time to break down all the reasons why Donald Sterling is a loathsome human being, but just Google his name and enjoy the depravity.
Eric Bledsoe Needs to Continue to Improve
Even though a knee injury sidelined him until Jan. 30, Eric Bledsoe had some impressive games late in the season that showed just how high his ceiling is.
The only silver lining to the Clippers getting swept by the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals was watching Eric Bledsoe grow and develop into the player that all Clippers fans hope he can be.
Against the Spurs (who haven't lost a game in 49 days), Bledsoe averaged 11.5 points, three rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Keep in mind that he was coming off the bench and only averaging 23 minutes per game in that series.
Bledsoe is a poor man's Russell Westbrook with potential to be just as good as Westbrook in a year or two.
If he continues to improve, the Clippers may just end up with the best 1-2 punch of point guards in the league.
Turn Down the Flopping a Bit
The Clippers flopped a lot this season.
Somewhere, Vlade Divac was watching the NBA playoffs and smiling while watching Blake Griffin throw himself to the deck after every foul.
Even though I'm a big Clippers fan, I got tired of watching Blake Griffin freak out like he had just gotten hit by a bus every time he got fouled going to the hoop.
Against the New Orleans Hornets I saw Reggie Evans execute the flop of the year.
Jarrett Jack, of all people, called Blake Griffin out on Twitter for flopping too much.
When people started calling them Flop City instead of Lob City, I became angry.
Flopping is a part of the NBA game these days (blame the Europeans), but it doesn't get you respect and it isn't cool.
Toughen up a bit Lob City, and stop flopping.
Get Trey Tompkins More Minutes
In case you were wondering, Trey Thompkins is the rookie from Georgia who averaged five minutes per game last season.
He finished the season averaging 2.4 points and one rebound per game.
Now you are probably wondering why I am advocating for him to play more minutes next year.
After Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers' big man situation is just as much of a logjam as their shooting guard spot. They have Caron Butler, Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans, Ryan Gomes, Bobby Simmons and Trey Thompkins all currently on their roster.
Kenyon Martin and Ryan Gomes are free agents. My money is on Martin coming back and Gomes getting the amnesty clause.
Because I so badly want Reggie Evans to remain a Clipper, I advocate for keeping him and having Thompkins come in to play both the three and four spot.
Thompkins has shown he can hit the three ball and rebound well.
In garbage time against the Wizards on Feb. 4, he had seven rebounds, two points and a block in 12 minutes.
Did he wow people last season with his ability off the bench? Absolutely not.
But he showed that he has the potential to be a solid backup next season.
I think the Clippers should not waste money on a free agent backup power forward (unless it's Kenyon Martin or Reggie Evans) and really work on developing Trey Thompkins.