Nearly halfway through the season, the Los Angeles Clippers own the best record in the league. The team has played exceptionally well, and the chemistry has been even better.
Multiple individual efforts can be highlighted, such as Chris Paul’s play vaulting him into the MVP discussion. Meanwhile, multiple individuals have exceeded expectations, while others have yet to meet theirs.
Whose stock is rising and whose is falling?
All statistics are current as on December 31, 2012.
Entering the 2012-13 season, there were still concerns about the development of Blake Griffin’s post game and jumper. Nearly halfway through the season, those concerns have diminished.
Griffin has proved that the hard work he put in during the offseason has paid off. Griffin has a career-high true-shooting percentage of 56.7 percent.
Further evidence of his improved jumper is seen when viewing his shooting percentages from different locations on the floor.
He is posting career-high percentages from every range of outside shots at the rim. Most notably 10 to 15 feet, where he is shooting 53.8 percent, because that is typically the area Griffin faces the basket and attacks off the dribble.
His post moves have also developed, and he looks much more comfortable working with his back to the basket. He has also displayed a few counters to the turn over his left shoulder. This has allowed him to pull off up-and-under moves and baseline spins that have turned into more easy baskets near the rim.
Despite starting the season in the rotation in favor of Ronny Turiaf, Ryan Hollins began to lose minutes at the start of December and is practically out of the rotation now. In November, Hollins was playing 14.2 minutes per game but only saw 4.9 minutes in December.
Turiaf’s ability to protect the rim has allowed him to take over most of the minutes behind DeAndre Jordan. It is not exactly anything Hollins did wrong on the floor, as his numbers are near his career averages across the board; it just speaks more of his talent level and the needs of the second unit.
Unless there is an injury in the frontcourt, do not expect to see much of Ryan Hollins.
Jamal Crawford had the worst season of his career last year, shooting a dreadful 38 percent from the field in Portland. Always known for his shot-making ability, the Clippers inked Crawford for $25 million this summer, and it looks like a steal.
Crawford’s 16.5 points per game and his ability to knock down 37.6 percent from three has pushed the new Clipper into the discussion for the Sixth Man of the Year award. Additionally, Crawford’s ability to lead the second unit and provide Chris Paul with a guard who can create his own shot is a major reason why the Clippers have the best record in the league as of the end of December.
The plight of Caron Butler’s career has been difficult to watch this season. Scoring a career-worst 9.7 points per game and playing a career-low 23 minutes per game, Butler’s impact on this team has been more about chemistry than his production.
Caron is holding onto his starting position in the lineup for now, but he will have a battle to remain a starter once Grant Hill comes back. Furthermore, Butler’s scoring has not been needed much this season thanks to the play of Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe.
While his role remains the same, Butler is needed more for his defense than his offensive ability at this point.
Signed for the veteran minimum in September, Matt Barnes has played well beyond anyone’s expectations so far.
The swingman is posting career highs in PER, win score and efficiency and swiping 1.3 steals per game. His energy and defense have helped transform the Clippers' second unit into one of the best in the league.
Additionally, Barnes has slid into a role most expected Grant Hill to take over, as the primary wing defender on the roster. Barnes is making his case for even more playing time, as he is fourth in the league in plus-minus.
Suiting-up is typically a term reserved for when a player puts on his uniform. For Grant Hill, that term has been the exact opposite.
Hill has yet to step on the floor in a Clipper uniform and has been on the bench in a suit since the end of October. The veteran from Duke was diagnosed with a bone bruise one week before opening night and is still trying to heal.
He was expected to be a major contributor after signing this summer, but the injury has made his role somewhat unknown, thanks to the excellent play of Matt Barnes. Hill will eventually be worked into the rotation, but he will be in a battle for minutes the rest of the season.