5 Issues L.A. Clippers Must Fix Before They're Real Title Contenders

Jeff NisiusContributor IIJanuary 24, 2013

5 Issues L.A. Clippers Must Fix Before They're Real Title Contenders

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    The Los Angeles Clippers have arrived on the scene and look the part of one of the few legitimate title contenders in the league.

    Led by two stars in Blake Griffin and Chris Paul and the deepest bench in the league, the Clippers have rolled though the first half of the season with one of the best records in the NBA.

    Conversely, the Clippers have some blemishes that need to be fixed before the postseason rolls around. 

    What must the Clippers fix before becoming true title contenders?

1. Chauncey Billups’ Minutes

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    Last season Chauncey Billups was a major player for the Clippers early in the season.  His shooting allowed the floor to be spaced, and his ability to attack off the dribble in order to set up the big men kept the floor balanced.

    Inopportunely, Billups went down with an Achilles injury last year and has only made it back for three games this season.  There is no doubt he will be in the game during clutch situations this postseason as long as he is healthy.  For that to happen, Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford will have to sacrifice minutes in order to get Billups on the floor.

    Furthermore, how will Chauncey fit back into an offense that is already top five in the league, after nearly an entire season of rehabilitation?

2. Fouls

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    Perhaps an overlooked statistic by most number nerds like myself, are fouls.  Fouls stem from mistakes on either side of the ball, and unfortunately typically lead to free throw attempts.  Two things are certain in basketball.  First, coaches always track fouls and might be more aware of them than any shooting percentage.  Secondly, fouling a jump shooter will send a coach into a fiery rage.

    Vinny Del Negro must know some form of meditation to prevent him from exploding into rage during games, because according to hoopdata, the Clippers commit the 10th most fouls in the league and have the sixth highest opponent free throw rate.

    The fouls must be reduced once postseason play comes around, because giving up easy points at the line is one way to doom a team’s title chances.

3. Defensive Rebounding

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    With all the athleticism on the Los Angeles Clippers, the assumption would be that they are a good rebounding team.  Especially with two gifted athletes like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan patrolling the paint.  However, that is far from the case.

    The Clippers rank No. 16 in offensive rebounding and 17th in defensive rebounding. 

    Despite how elite the team is on offense and defense, rebounding is a pivotal aspect of winning games.  This directly applies to the Clippers’ postseason chances.

    Improving the rebounding situation should be the number one concern, because halfway though the season it has yet to get any better.

4. Defending the Three-Point Line

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    Anyone who has watched the Los Angeles Clippers play Golden State knows that the Clippers do a miserable job of defensing the three-point line.  In fact, in the four meetings, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are a combined 28-of-58 from three.

    As a team, the Clippers allow opposing teams to shoot 36.8 percent from downtown, good for 22nd in the league.

    While the overall defense has been very good, this is a weak spot for the team. When combined with their average rebounding numbers, the key to beating the Clippers becomes apparent.

5. DeAndre Jordan

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    As the season began, DeAndre Jordan’s improved offensive repertoire was immediately noticeable.  He looked more fluid with the ball on the block, and showed off an improved jump hook along with a counter to that by spinning back the opposite way for a hook.

    His offensive numbers prove that he worked on his game this summer as he is averaging a career-high 8.8 points per game on 6.2 shots.  His defense also improved and he looks much more comfortable protecting the rim and has stopped going after ill-advised block attempts.

    Meanwhile, the problems are beginning to overshadow his improvement.  DJ is averaging career-low field goal and free throw percentages, making him nearly impossible to play late in games.  His rebounding has also tailed off from last season by 1.4 rebounds per game, and is concerning based on the team’s poor defensive rebounding numbers.