Why NBA Fans Love and Hate the Los Angeles Clippers
Even if they're looking more like the Western Conference's weak link of late.
There's so much to like about this team.
Their energized aerial attack is best captured in their "Lob City" nickname. They have three of the best dunk artists in today's game in Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe. The team boasts a scary collection of athletes, players with the quickness and hops to impact the game at either end.
And veteran showman Jamal Crawford proved a few weeks back that the setup alley can be just as dynamic as the thunderous oop.
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro added a new dynamic to the point guard-by-committee approach. There simply isn't a style of floor general that he doesn't available to him.
Chris Paul leads the unit on both ends of the floor. Even though his scoring has dipped to its second-lowest level since his rookie season of 2005-06 (16.5 points per game), his peripheral stats capture his true impact on the team.
With injured Boston Celtics star Rajon Rondo removed from the equation, Paul has averaged more assists than any healthy player this season, 9.7 per game. He's also the top assist-to-turnover man in the league (4.40, via ESPN.com), with only Jose Calderon of the Detroit Pistons (4.39) coming within one of Paul's average.
Defensively, he's the biggest pest the position has seen this year. He doesn't have elite-level athleticism, but his preparation and intuitiveness have allowed him his place above all of the league's best pickpockets with his 2.38 steals per game.
Why would Del Negro opt for the point guard-by-committee approach when he's already got one of the finest players to ever fill the position?
Simply because he can.
The Clippers have a glut of floor generals, with veteran Chauncey Billups and rising star Bledsoe more than capable of leading this team.
Billups has championship experience that is unmatched by his backcourt mates and a strong three-point percentage (35.5) that his career average (38.8) suggests will only get better. He's got the size (6'3", 210 lbs) to bully opposing point men in the post and the savvy to stay in front of the hyper-athletic ones sprouting up across the league.
Bledsoe is Del Negro's wild card, a card-carrying member of the aforementioned athletic specimens at the position. He can change the pace of the Clippers' attack without the same reckless abandon that plagues some of his speedy peers. His 1.66 assist-to-turnover ratio (via ESPN.com) isn't exactly staggering, but it's still a better mark than James Harden of the Houston Rockets or Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers.
So, what's there not to like about this team, then?
Well, a lot more than Clippers fans would care to admit.
A dreadful 3-8 stretch to close out January and open the month of February removed the veil of immortality that surrounded the franchise after its 17-game winning streak afforded them a perfect month of basketball in December.
Despite possessing all of the requisite physical traits, this team has consistently shied away from physical play, particularly in the paint. Griffin and Jordan should be a frontcourt to be feared, but they're nowhere near an intimidating post presence. Outside of making an unenviable poster appearance, there's just not much for opponents to worry about in the matchup.
The team's designated enforcer is the wiry, 6'7", 226-lb Matt Barnes. At his best, he's a pesky defender with spotty offensive production (10.7 points per game). At his worst, he's a player not above sending a forearm into an opponent's face for a perceived slight.
There's also the unsavory matter of the Clippers costing themselves the casual fans they've added with their above-the-rim finishes. "Flop City" has grown into an unfortunate nickname for the team thanks to their "ability" to embellish levels of contact and draw foul calls.
The Clippers are hardly the only team influencing officials by flexing their acting chops on the hardwood, but they're one of its most consistent performers. Although they've revamped some of their roster from last year, some of the most egregious offenders (namely Paul and Griffin) remain from the group who flopped so much that even Del Negro was forced to comment on the subject (via Dan Woike of The Orange County Register).
L.A.'s recent level of play should leave casual NBA fans thrilled. The team will surely be around long enough to fill an impressive highlight reel, but not too long to annoy fans with their unsightly characteristics.
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