Los Angles Clippers forward, DeAndre Jordan turns the ball over to the Memphis Grizzlies Rudy Gay and Tony Allen.
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.
Mike Scott fell victim to the injury bug and had to redshirt his senior year due to a surgically repaired ankle. He has finally gotten the opportunity this year to show what he is capable of. And, in terms of the Clipper's needs, he is more than capable.
He possesses a very strong all-around offensive game, and he has showcased a wide array of moves ranging from face-ups, up-and-unders, hook shots, jump shots and fade-aways. He boasts an average of 24.6 points per 40 minutes.
Although he is not explosive—sorry Lob City fans—he brings to the table a unique variety of moves for a big man, and that alone should keep the front office's fingers crossed.
Scott averaged 11.8 rebounds per 40 minutes. Although he is not a shot blocker, he has been very good at contesting and altering opponents' shots.
Scott plays to win and he puts his team before anything else. Virginia was one of the best defensive teams in the country thanks to his dedication to team basketball.
If Scott is still available, the Clippers brass would be foolish to pass him up.
According to Draft Express, Papanikolaou is one of the top international prospects hitting this year's draft. Weighing in at 230 pounds, he possesses the size and strength to go up against NBA forwards. While he is naturally a SF, his 6'8" frame gives him the size to be moved to the four spot, as the NBA style is evolving towards small-ball.
When it comes to spreading the defense, Kostas Papanikolaou brings all the perimeter firepower you could want from an NBA big. Not only does he consistently hit the 20-foot perimeter shot, but he is deadly from three-point range as well. He brings a nice skill set of offensive moves including off-ball movement, post-up plays, and he consistently finishes around the rim.
Defensively, he was superb at the Euroleague level. He cannot be considered as a lock-down defender, but he is a high-energy ballplayer whose motor does not stop until the buzzer sounds.
It will be interesting to see how well he will be able to adapt to the NBA game. And, concerning the Clipper's needs, he would be an excellent compliment to Chris Paul's assist totals.
Robert Sacre leaves it all out on the court. He is a high-energy player who is known for doing the little things on offense and defense.
His seven-foot frame combined with his soft touch has intrigued many. While his post moves are limited, they are consistent and efficient. His go-to moves include turn-around fade-aways, baseline spin moves and a right-handed hook shot. He has also improved each year in his free throw shooting posting a percentage of 76.1 this season. He continually knocks down the set jump shot which would provide the extra spacing needed for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to attack.
Sacre is known to be a good defensive rotator in pick-and-roll situations and plays excellent man-to-man defense.
His downsides are his defensive rebounding and explosiveness. He gets his shot blocked more than you would expect for a guy with his height. But, with his strong work ethic, I am certain that he will make the necessary improvements to compete at the NBA level.
Tornike Shengelia is a very gifted offensive player. He is long and athletic and handles the ball very well. Shengelia showcases terrific footwork in the post and is a proven passer when running the fast-break. Several opponents have fallen victim to his posterizing dunks in traffic and he also has the ability to stop on a dime and nail the long outside shot.
As Draft Express notes, Shengelia plays the game with high energy and crashed the glass with tenacity pulling down 9.2 rebounds per 40 minutes in Euroleague play during the 2011-2012 season.
If he is being guarded by a smaller player, he possesses some nice post-up and spin moves in his arsenal. Equipped with a lightning-quick first step, time and again he has blown by defenders with ease, thus making him a primary candidate to be used in isolation sets.
If drafted by the Clippers, he will provide an all-around offensive and defensive presence and he will help to fill out the wings while bringing hustle and grit every time he steps onto the floor. The Clippers would benefit in every way from this potential prospect.
Quincy Acy is a raw phenomenon with tremendous upside. He had a breakout junior season and followed it with an even better senior showing.
While playing nearly 30 minutes a game, he posted averages of 12 points per game while shooting 58 percent from the field and an astounding 78 percent from the free throw line. Acy posted nearly eight rebounds per game to go along with two blocks.
Acy has a lot of work to do in refining his post-up game, but he possesses a perimeter game the Clippers desperately need. His form and accuracy has improved each year which shows the hard work this man is putting into his trade. He is excellent at running pick-and-rolls and finishing after cutting to the basket.
Defensively, there is a lot of work to be done if he is to be successful in the NBA. Improving in the rebounding and perimeter defense departments will go a long way in showing the Clippers he can be a key contributor off the bench.