The Los Angeles Clippers have an All-Star duo leading the way, but their depth will be equally important, as role players will be the difference between wins and losses in the playoffs.
Players such as Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford have played vital roles all season long. If the Clippers hope to advance out of the first round, that trend is going to have to continue, plus more. Teams will undoubtedly focus their defense on Chris Paul to keep him from breaking down the defense.
But will the Clippers’ role players be able to spread the floor, score one-on-one and defend? If they do, Los Angeles has the talent for a deep run. If not, it could be an early exit for one of the deepest teams in the NBA.
Jamal Crawford has been one of the key players in the Los Angeles Clippers’ success this season. There is no doubt the addition of Crawford is a major reason why the team has won more than 50 games for the first time in franchise history.
Crawford provides an additional shot creator opposite Chris Paul and is a threat to score from behind the arc as well. No matter if he is leading the second unit or playing next to Paul, Crawford is an extremely talented offensive player. When he is on, the Clippers’ offense becomes extremely dynamic and very difficult to defend.
Attempting to prove that last season’s playoff performance was no fluke, Eric Bledsoe responded with a career-best season. He has improved on last season’s numbers in nearly every single statistical category. Furthermore, he is also one of the league leaders in steals per 48 minutes, ranking third.
The Los Angeles Clippers are going to need an electrified Bledsoe if they are to make a deep playoff push. Not only does he provide a change of pace from Chris Paul on offense, but he is also one of the most athletic defensive point guards in the NBA. His ability to jump out in passing lanes and pressure the ball from one end of the floor to the other is unique.
Bledsoe’s play will be crucial, because all season long he has been able to spark the second unit and either extend Clipper leads or cut into the other team's. The rest of the team feeds off of his energy, and the Clippers could certainly use some of that at the moment.
Perhaps the most frustrating player on the Los Angeles Clippers’ roster is DeAndre Jordan. For all of his physical gifts, Jordan has not been able to prove his true worth as a Clipper. His free-throw shooting is so poor that Vinny Del Negro has no choice but to sit him on the bench late in games.
Jordan is a career 42 percent shooter from the charity stripe, but this year, he is a pitiful 39 percent. The most frustrating part about Jordan is that while he has developed on both sides of the ball over the past few years, his overall impact is limited due to bad fouls and terrible free-throw shooting.
The Clippers will desperately need their starting center to perform well this postseason. Without him on the floor, the Clippers lose an impact defender who can alter shots and clean up the glass. Furthermore, it forces the Clippers to either play Lamar Odom or send out a small unit late in games.
Over the course of his career, Caron Butler stepped up in the playoffs. His career averages of 14.5 points per game and 6.6 rebounds prove this notion. Then there is his gutsy performance last season, when he broke his hand in the first game of the playoffs, yet played through the injury.
While Butler has struggled all season long, the Los Angeles Clippers are going to need him in the postseason. Butler not only draws the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer, but his ability to score early in games has also allowed the Clippers to get off to quick starts.
If Caron is hitting from outside and scoring, it will make things much easier on Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Should Butler’s offensive game not be there, his attention has to turn to defense, where he will be relied upon.
Possibly the Los Angeles Clippers’ X-factor in the postseason, Lamar Odom could be called upon for important minutes. With DeAndre Jordan unable to finish games because of his foul shooting, Odom becomes the most logical replacement in the rotation if the Clippers want to keep a traditional unit on the floor.
Odom’s ability to create off the dribble will pose a threat late in games, because the defense will focus on Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. This allows Odom to drive to the basket and either draw a foul, finish or use his excellent vision to kick out to an open shooter.
Furthermore, Odom’s ability to contribute on the glass is a huge plus. The versatile swingman has pulled down 5.7 rebounds in just 20 minutes per game. Defensive rebounding will be vital if the Clippers want to make a run deep in the playoffs.