Examining How L.A. Clippers Will Fill the Chauncey Billups Void
Expectations have long been tempered for the Los Angeles Clippers. For every great leader, there have been a handful of mediocre role players, thus resulting in consistently heartbreaking failure. Fortunately, the Clippers have designed a rotation that could break that trend.
The heart of the Clippers can be found in their backcourt. With a unique set of four great-to-elite ball-handlers, it is virtually impossible to anticipate their halfcourt set. When you consider that the four guards are Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, Eric Bledsoe and Chauncey Billups, that task becomes all the more difficult to execute.
Fortunately for opponents, there are a multitude of factors going against the rising Los Angeles squad.
In the 28 years since the franchise relocated to Los Angeles, the Clippers have had just three winning seasons. That's 25 years with a .500 record or below, equating to an 82 percent failure rate.
Furthermore, the Clippers have never had consecutive winning seasons. They also haven't made the postseason in back-to-back years since 1992 and '93. The unfortunate truth is that history is against Los Angeles' forgotten child.
As we enter modern times, it doesn't appear to get any better.
According to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times, the Clippers' dream backcourt will have to wait. 2004 NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups will be out for at least the first two months of the season, as the 35-year-old recovers from surgery on his Achilles tendon.
Billups is still recovering from surgery on his torn left Achilles' tendon. As for the prospect of his playing on opening night, Oct. 31, Billups said, that is "not going to happen, I'm sure."
He hasn't been cleared yet to play five-on-five. But Billups said he expects to take part in limited team drills Saturday and to be playing sometime in December.
"I'm going to listen to my body," Billups said. "When it tells me I'm ready to get back out there, that's when I'll be back out there."
In order to overcome these overwhelming odds, the Clippers must be able to replace Billups in an adequate manner. Before he returns, the team could play anywhere between 15 and 31 games. In a stacked Western Conference, a slow start cannot be afforded.
With a rough schedule from Day 1, that task becomes all the more difficult to manage.
Fortunately, the Los Angeles Clippers have the manpower to overcome this loss. Jamal Crawford joined the team as a high-profile signing this offseason, while Willie Green was one of the better under-the-radar acquisitions of the summer.
And don't forget about that Eric Bledsoe guy.
Jamal Crawford has made his name known as one of the best Sixth Men the NBA has seen. Crawford won the 2010 Sixth Man of the Year award when he averaged 18.0 points per game on 38.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Although that point-per-game number will decrease with such a significant amount of depth on the Clippers' perimeter, his role within the offense will not.
The former Michigan Wolverine is an exceptional ball-handler who has proven to be one of the better slashers in the game. Crawford's ability to get to the rim will certainly change the dynamic of the Clippers' offense, as they lacked a true slashing scorer in 2011-12.
His ability to score off the dribble should alleviate pressure from Paul in terms of facilitating the offense. Should Crawford rediscover his touch from beyond the arc, then the level of performance from fellow shooter Caron Butler should improve accordingly.
This offense will score with efficiency regardless of how Jamal Crawford is able to contribute. Having his scoring in Chauncey Billups' absence, however, would certainly fill a void.
If you're unfamiliar with Willie Green, be prepared to witness an offensive weapon.
Green is a 6'3" shooting guard whose ball-handling skills enable him to run the point when necessary. He finishes well in traffic, has excellent change-of-direction skills and is capable of attacking the basket off of the dribble.
Just don't think you can step away for separation and positioning, as he's even more deadly as a jump shooter.
During the 2011-12 regular season, Green shot 44.2 percent from beyond the arc. This came as a result of the nine-year veteran beginning to spot-up for his shots rather than attempting to take every jumper in motion.
With Chris Paul certain to drive-and-dish, Green is likely to take on a similar role in Los Angeles. As long as Chauncey Billups is out, Willie Green should see consistent minutes and contribute in virtually the same way as Billups on the offensive end.
But what about defense?
If you're looking for a player to make up for the absence of Chauncey Billups on the defensive end, Eric Bledsoe is your guy.
Bledsoe is an outstanding perimeter defender who blends extraordinary quickness with overwhelming upper body strength and active hands. This resulted in a 3.36 steal per 48 minute rate, which topped teammate Chris Paul for the best mark in the NBA.
His offensive shortcomings hold no bearing once this fact is established. The Kentucky Wildcat's progression on offense from the regular season to the postseason puts the previous talk to rest.
During the 2012 NBA Playoffs, Eric Bledsoe proved to be more than a statistical anomaly. Instead, he provided a spark to the Clippers that saved them from the Memphis Grizzlies. Bledsoe's ability to force turnovers, come up with key baskets and display a consistent motor helped lift the Clippers into the Western Conference Semifinals.
A stage on which he scored 23 points in Game 1 and 17 in Game 4 while matched up against Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. To say that Bledsoe is special is an understatement. To claim that he can replace Chauncey Billups holds truth.
The question is: Will Vinny Del Negro offer him playing time?
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