2012 is winding down and the Clippers are leaving the year in style, leading the Pacific Division and having morphed into a championship-caliber team.
With the new year about to kick off, the Clippers have some areas to improve in order to maintain their end of the year performance. They also need to follow-through with a few of their key attributes in order to ward off other championship contenders in the Western Conference.
There are five New Year’s resolutions that this current Clipper team needs to keep. Continue on to find out what they are.
All statistics are current as of December 28, 2012
Quite possibly one of the most overlooked reasons for the Los Angeles Clippers' stellar play this season has been their unselfishness.
Led by Chris Paul, the team has begun to take on his identity as a point guard of making the extra pass and setting up teammates for easy baskets. It is a philosophy that has made Paul one of the top point guards in the NBA since being drafted in 2005.
According to ESPN, the Clippers are second in the league in assists per game at 23.8. Additionally, they are third in assist ratio and forth in offensive efficiency.
The Clippers are exceptionally skilled at nearly every position, but it is their unselfishness that has paid off early this season and resulted in an efficient offense and turned a once dismal franchise into one of the elite.
Rebounding has long been a problem for the Los Angeles Clippers, despite sending out two of the most athletic bigs in the NBA—Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Last season the Clippers finished 18th in the league in rebounding, not much has changed this year. Currently, the Clippers are 17th in rebounding, pulling down an average of 41.9 per game, according to ESPN.
The problem comes on both ends of the court, as the Clippers are 18th in both offensive and defensive rebounding. While this weakness has not resulted in many bad performances thus far, it could spell trouble in the playoffs.
The Clippers thrive on transition baskets from bad shots and steals, but when the game slows down in the playoffs, both are going to be more difficult to come by. This is where the Clippers’ weakness in controlling the boards could come back to bite them.
The rebounding must improve, plain and simple.
The chemistry surrounding this team is quite amazing. Watch a Clipper game and focus on the bench after any good play on either end of the floor. The bench will erupt at any given moment to cheer on their teammates for effort just as much as for big plays.
It is almost like watching a mid-major conference team in the NCAA tournament. Every player on the roster is focused on the game. They do not care about individual statistics or recognition, only winning the game.
While the Clippers already are 10-deep, Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill have yet to be introduced into the rotation. Billups has played three games and Hill has yet to don a Clipper uniform.
The unselfishness must continue, because Billups and Hill will only make the Clippers more dangerous. They will take minutes away from others currently in the rotation, but it is for the good of the team and its goals, because both are seasoned veterans who have shined on big stages.
One major reason why the Clippers have transformed into a legitimate title contender this season is the team’s improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
According to ESPN, last season the Clippers finished tied for 29th in opponent’s points allowed per shot at 1.23. Furthermore, the Clippers were tied for 11th in point differential at plus 2.5 and were 18th in defensive efficiency despite finishing fourth in offensive efficiency.
This season, the defense has been championship caliber. They are tied for the second lowest opponent’s points per shot at 1.16. Additionally, the Clippers lead the league in point differential at plus 10.3, 2.1 points ahead of the second place Oklahoma City. Finally, the Clippers have drastically improved their defensive efficiency, ranking second in the league.
Defending this well is a much needed improvement over last season and one of the reasons that the Clippers have such a great record.
A lethal offense is typically highlighted by a team’s ability to attack and then have a counter for the opposing team’s rotations and defensive game plan. This is the trademark of the Los Angeles Clippers’ offense.
No matter which unit is on the floor, the Clippers attack the rim as well as any team in the league. The first unit is obviously led by Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan’s aerial assault on the rim. However, Chris Paul is the catalyst, thanks to his ability to create open looks for everyone on the floor. One trip down the floor Paul can throw a lob, and the next time he can drive and kick to shooters on the perimeter.
The second unit is equally dangerous, as evidenced by leading the league in bench points per game. The Clippers’ bench also has three players ranked top 10 in the NBA in plus-minus—Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Lamar Odom.
Each unit has players who can attack the basket, hit threes and finish above the rim. Both unit’s ability to consistently attack and breakdown the defense is one of the reasons why the Clippers’ offense is one of the league’s best.