Los Angeles Clippers: Why "Lob City" Failed to Improve in the NBA Offseason

Argun UlgenAnalyst IAugust 1, 2012

March 09, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Dallas Mavericks power forward Lamar Odom (7) lines up for the free throw against the Sacramento Kings during the first quarter at Power Balance Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

The Los Angeles Clippers (a.k.a. "Lob City") had a relatively active offseason by signing four NBA household names: Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups.  However, as strong as these acquisitions look on paper, they will do little to improve the Clippers' fatal defects. 

During the 2011-12 season, the Clippers ranked at the bottom of the NBA in four key categories: free-throw percentage (29th out of 30 teams), blocked shots (22nd), opposing team free throws allowed per field goal attempt (29th) and total rebounding (22nd).

The Clippers' newest additions do not adequately address these concerns:


Free Throws:  Only a Modest Improvement

The Clippers' prize acquisition, small forward Lamar Odom, will only exacerbate their free-throw shooting issues next season.  Odom has a career 68 percent free-throw percentage, and opposing teams will be happy to foul him near the end of close games. 

The Clippers three other additions will only modestly assuage their free-throw shooting woes.  While Billups, Hill and Crawford are all outstanding free-throw shooters, it is unlikely that either player will get to the line enough to make the Clippers a respectable free-throw shooting team.

For all of Crawford's excessive ball usage (26 percent a game coming off the bench), he has only reached the free-throw line 3.4 times a game over the last two seasons.  Grant Hill, who will be 40 years old next year, only visits the line three times a game as well.

On the other hand, Chauncey Billups is very active at the line; over the last few seasons, he has averaged about six free-throw attempts a game. 

Unfortunately for the Clippers, Billups has missed nearly half of his last two seasons due to knee injuries.  It's unlikely that he will remain healthy for the duration of the 2012-13.  When he does play, expect Billups to operate more as a spot shooter from beyond the three-point arc—a role that will diminish his number of free-throw attempts per game.


Interior Defense:  Blocked Shots and Opposing Teams' Free Throws Allowed Per Field Goal Attempt—No Improvement

One of the worst interior defensive teams in the league, the Clippers failed to address its shot-blocking wants in the off-season.  Lamar Odom has averaged less than one blocked shot a game for the last three seasons.

The Clippers are also notoriously bad at stopping opposing interior offenses without drawing fouls.  For every ten shots an opposing team takes against the Clippers, they go to the line about 2.5 times.

Odom will not help in this regard; he averages 3.2 personal fouls a game. While Crawford and Billups are average perimeter defenders, and Grant Hill is an above-average corner defender, none of these players will routinely make clean, aggressive defensive stops in the paint


Rebounding:  Perhaps Some Improvement, But Not Nearly Enough.

The Clippers' best hope for improvement during the 2012-13 season is in the rebounding department.  If Odom—now 32 years old and coming off a massive letdown year freighted with off-court issues—can resurrect his game back to when he was in his prime, the Clips will have added a top defensive rebounder to their squad. Odom has averaged nine rebounds a game for his career.

Even under the most optimistic forecast for Odom's productivity, though, the Clippers will only be an average rebounding team in the league.  Center DeAndre Jordan has a career average of 6.4 rebounds a game, well below par for his position.  Neither the Clippers bench nor its guards are active rebounders.


Teams Will Still Have a Simple, Successful Blueprint to Beat the Clippers

Opposing teams' strategies will not have to change much to beat the Clippers in 2012-13.  Teams will continue to have success by forcing Odom, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to score at the free-throw line.  Combined, this Clippers' frontcourt averages less than 60 percent from the charity stripe.

Conversely, opposing offenses will exploit what will continue to be a weak Clippers interior defense that is prone to foul trouble. 

The Clippers will continue to do well in the regular season, where they will run an up-tempo offense to mitigate their lingering weaknesses.  However, in the playoffs—when grinding half-court play becomes the norm—these unaddressed issues will haunt Lob City.