Breaking Down Every Matchup Between New-Look L.A. Lakers and Clippers
Just over a month after being eliminated by what seemed to be the new dominant team in the west, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers put themselves back into contention.
Meanwhile, the Clippers made some noise by signing valuable bench players like Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom as well as signing Blake Griffin to a long-term deal.
We all know that the Clippers-Lakers rivalry was heated last season—just imagine how entertaining it will be this season with all the new additions.
Every game that these teams play against each other will competitive and each matchup will be intriguing to watch.
But, which team has the upper hand?
Let’s find out.
PG: Steve Nash vs. Chris Paul
Perhaps the most exciting matchup between the new-look Lakers and the Clippers is the battle between all-star point guards Steve Nash and Chris Paul.
Both Steve Nash and Chris Paul are able to put up a double-double on any given night, which is just one reason why this matchup has the potential to be electrifying.
Although Chris Paul is a prolific passer who has averaged close to 10 APG over his career, Steve Nash creates easier shots for teammates.
According to hoopdata.com, 4.7 of Steve Nash’s assists last season came at the rim and 1.1 of his assists per game came within ten feet—he led the league in both categories.
Don’t forget, Nash put up these numbers with big men like Marcin Gortat (a good player but certainly not elite) and Channing Frye.
Playing with skilled big men like Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol will only give Nash a larger advantage over Chris Paul when it comes to creating for others.
Chris Paul has the advantage over Nash in number of other areas, however.
First of all, Paul is a better scorer than Nash at this stage in their careers.
Although Nash is a great shooter, Paul will take advantage of his strength and Nash’s weaknesses as a defender to get to the rim and score from the perimeter—in fact, Paul is one of the best isolation scorers in the NBA, scoring 1.02 PPP, which ranks him eighth in the league according to mysynergysports.com.
Chris Paul is also a better defender than Nash.
Not only did Paul lead the league in steals last season, but he was also a part of the NBA’s All-NBA defensive team.
In addition, in the 19 games that Paul and Nash have played against each other, Nash has turned the ball over 4.3 times per game compared to Paul’s 2.0 per game.
While a Paul-Nash matchup will be fun to watch for the next few seasons, it’s clear who has the upper hand.
Advantage: Chris Paul
SG: Kobe Bryant vs. Chauncey Billups
The shooting guard battle between the Lakers and Clippers is a considerably less exciting matchup than the others.
After the loss of Nick Young and Randy Foye, I expect the Clippers to start Chauncey Billups once again and use Jamal Crawford as a scorer off the bench.
Meanwhile, it’s clear that the Lakers are going to start at the 2: Kobe Bryant.
The advantages that Bryant has over Billups are obvious.
Although Billups is known as a good defender, he will have trouble guarding one of the league’s best scorers based solely on the height disparity between the two.
On the offensive end, Billups will have difficulty scoring as long as Bryant is defending him.
Advantage: Kobe Bryant
SF: Metta World Peace vs. Caron Butler
At this point in their careers, not much separates Caron Butler and Metta World Peace.
While Butler is a more versatile and productive offensive player, World Peace has an intimidating defensive presence.
Their strengths and weaknesses may be enough to counteract each other.
Nonetheless, their head-to-head matchups from last season tell a different story.
Butler completely outplayed World Peace as he averaged 19 PPG in their three matchups last season.
World Peace, on the other hand, scored a dismal four PPG.
While World Peace improved at the end of last season, I don’t expect him to be effective. Steve Nash will give him a few open shots, but I don’t expect World Peace to be utilized much on the offensive end.
More will be demanded from and thus produced by Caron Butler of the Clippers.
Advantage: Caron Butler
PF: Pau Gasol vs. Blake Griffin
Next to the Paul-Nash matchup, the battle between Blake Griffin and Pau Gasol will be the most exhilarating to watch.
Griffin relies heavily on his youth and athleticism to score and rebound—he’s active on every play.
Gasol relies on his finesse, but he is known to disappear at times.
It’s evident that Gasol and Griffin have opposite styles of play, but who will have the advantage?
Both are good rebounders, but neither are very good defenders—that’s why I believe this matchup will come down to offensive production.
Griffin will dominate Gasol in transition—according to mysynergysports.com, he scored 1.42 PPP in transition last season, which ranked him as one of the best in the league.
However, Griffin will have trouble scoring in the post.
He does not have an array of post moves and he shot 44.9 percent from the post last season.
Meanwhile, Gasol will do a good job of defending Griffin in the post—according to mysynergysports.com, his opponent shot only 36 percent from the post.
The fact that Griffin tore his meniscus and won’t have the ability to work on his postgame this offseason is a major disadvantage.
In addition, it’s hard to tell whether Griffin will be able to rely so heavily on his athleticism next season due to his injury.
Gasol was not utilized effectively on offense last season, and I expect that to change this season with the addition of Steve Nash.
The pick-and-roll will allow for a number of easy baskets for Gasol, and his postgame will help give him an advantage over an average defender like Griffin—Gasol was one of the best post scorers in the league last season and scored 0.95 PPP in the post.
Both Griffin and Gasol are great players, but Gasol’s offensive versatility versus Griffin’s raw athletic ability gives him a slight edge.
Advantage: Pau Gasol
C: Andrew Bynum vs. DeAndre Jordan
Like the Billups vs. Bryant matchup, this one is pretty lopsided.
Andrew Bynum has a clear advantage on the offensive end.
Although DeAndre Jordan shoots a high percentage from the field, a lot his baskets come off of cuts or in transition—in other words, he can’t create for himself at all.
Although Jordan is a superior athlete, Bynum has become a consistent and dominant offensive post player, scoring close to 19 PPG on 54 percent shooting.
Furthermore, not only is Bynum a better rebounder, grabbing 12.1 rebounds per 36 minutes compared to Jordan’s 10.9, he’s also a better defender.
He allows 0.69 PPP in isolation plays compared to Jordan’s 0.91 PPP, and he allows 0.72 PPP in post-up situations in comparison to Jordan’s 0.82, according to mysynergysports.com.
Just take a look at their 10 head-to-head matchups—Bynum averaged 21.5 PPG and 11.5 RPG while Jordan averaged 7.5 PPG and 8.2 RPG.
Advantage: Andrew Bynum
Last season, the Lakers had the worst scoring bench in the league.
In terms of bench production, I don’t expect this season to be any different for the team.
The Lakers added a solid big man in Antawn Jamison, but he is nott very efficient and shoots only 40 percent from the field.
Players like Steve Blake and Josh McRoberts don’t do much to help the Lakers’ case.
While the Lakers have one of the NBA’s worst benches, it seems the Clippers have one of the best.
Although he had a down year last season, Jamal Crawford is a great scorer off the bench. Lamar Odom, if in shape, is a unique player who can score, rebound and even facilitate.
Eric Bledsoe is a young player who can provide a spark off the bench, and Grant Hill can defend and easily knock down open jumpers.
Advantage: Los Angeles Clippers
Overall: 3-3 Tie