The Los Angeles Clippers, fresh off being swept in the 2012 NBA Playoffs, have little to complain about when reminiscing on this past season and dwelling on their upcoming future. They brought in an accomplished superstar in Chris Paul, finished this season with their best winning percentage in franchise history and went further into the playoffs than anyone would have originally predicted.
But the close of each new season brings new challenges and opportunities for improvement. The San Antonio Spurs clearly exposed some of the Clippers' holes, sealing their early postseason dismissal.
You could contribute some of their problems to Coach Vinny Del Negro’s lack of offensive fluency and defensive presence. You could make a case for a lot of things actually, but there was one thing, or rather player I should say, who stood out far from the rest. He was like a chicken in a den of lions, a sheep amongst a herd of wolves.
Or, as Anne Robinson would say it: “You are the weakest link, goodbye.”
That player is DeAndre Jordan.
Tony Parker ran circles around DeAndre Jordan’s pick-and-roll defense, giving him the look of someone better suited for the D-League. And, with Jordan guarding Tim Duncan, he became a superstar again, Tim Duncan that is.
But, this was the least of the glaring issues seen in the center’s performance.
Offensively, DeAndre was far worse. His lack of post-up play wreaked havoc on the Clippers offense. Even more importantly, Jordan’s inability to knock down a perimeter shot caused San Antonio’s defense to collapse in the paint, forcing the Clippers to purely rely on their outside shooting. Consequently, the Clippers went from "Lob City" to brick in the blink of an eye.
Imagine Brandon Bass, Nick Collison, or Serge Ibaka in his place. Their ability to consistently knock down the 20-foot shot would have forced San Antonio’s defense to commit, thus opening up the middle and bringing "Lob City" back into full effect.
This is where it all went wrong.
And, to make matters even worse, his free throw percentage was a dismal 33 percent, good enough for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to bring Hack-A-Shaq back to town. I thought Superman came back to earth when Hack-A-Shaq was enforced, but Hack-A-Jordan brought the entire squadron crashing down.
It is plausible to guess that broomsticks would never have been used if Jordan could have knocked down at least half of his free throws. At least one game was lost due to his inability to make a freebie.
With three years and $30 million remaining on Jordan’s contract, he must be shipped out. He does not play on the same level as Kris Humphries, Paul Millsap, David West, Luis Scola or David Lee, and all of these aforementioned NBA big men are paid salaries in the same ballpark as Jordan’s, and dreadfully so. The question mark concerning Clippers management is a different article for another time, but the moral is simple: there must be change.
The 2012 NBA draft is loaded with talent and promise. Unfortunately, the Clippers will have the 53rd pick in the draft, and while it is unrealistic to expect the Clippers to walk away with an impact player, I have come up with five players that can be had who can each perform in the areas in which Jordan lacks. Each of these prospects could potentially supply the Clippers with a big perimeter presence they so desperately need.