With Doc Rivers on board, the Los Angeles Clippers now have a coach with championship pedigree. With that will likely come changes to the Clippers' system. How fast Rivers can implement such alterations and drill them into his players' heads will affect how quickly the Clippers become real contenders.
During his time with the Boston Celtics, Rivers developed a reputation for being a play-calling genius, especially out of timeouts. Sure, he had a few Hall of Famers on the roster to work with, but he would always seem to draw up something that the opponent wasn't anticipating down the stretch of close games.
For that, the man deserves credit.
Rivers now takes over a ballclub that is already pretty darn good, and the best part is that Doc will still have an extraordinarily intelligent point guard to coach. Chris Paul may very well be the only floor general who is truly superior to Rajon Rondo, and for that, Rivers must be salivating.
Let's examine what changes Doc may have in store for Los Angeles.
1. Less Lob City, more half-court offense
While alley-oops are obviously awesome because they result in high-percentage shots that can serve as huge momentum-changers, Rivers will likely want to curb the frequency with which the Clippers rely on that to score points. After all, where has it gotten them the past two postseasons?
What L.A. really needs is a more consistent and reliable half-court offense, and if it can establish that, those alley-oops will become that much more dangerous.
Fortunately for Doc, the Clips went out and added a couple of shooters in J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, something the team lacked in 2012-13. As good as Eric Bledsoe is, he was somewhat redundant on the Clippers roster. Los Angeles replaced him (and Caron Butler) with two guys who can space the floor—a brilliant move which should not only help Paul, but make Blake Griffin a better player as well.
Having Redick and Dudley drawing attention out on the perimeter will allow Griffin more room to operate in the post, and something as simple as having more space could significantly better Griffin's skill on the low block, an area of his game that could certainly use some fine-tuning.
Plus, with good three-point marksmen, Blake can best utilize his outstanding passing ability. The 24-year-old forward averaged a very solid 3.6 assists a night this past season, a number that stands a strong chance to increase with this new-and-improved L.A. offense.
Rivers, being the veteran coach that he is, will likely employ a more patient approach to the Clippers offense, and he has the personnel to successfully do so.
2. Crashing the offensive glass will be abandoned for better transition defense
A well-known trademark of Doc's Celtics teams was that they didn't go for offensive rebounds. They would sacrifice second-chance opportunities in exchange for making sure that the opponent didn't get easy transition buckets. The proof is in the pudding, too, as Boston ranked last in offensive boards in 2012-13 and fifth in fast-break points allowed.
Whether or not you actually agree with Rivers' strategy is your own choice, but the C's always had an elite defense during the Doc/Kevin Garnett years. Of course, most of that probably had to do with Garnett, but the nuances that Rivers exercised certainly helped.
Los Angeles already has a solid transition D, ranking 10th in opponent fast-break points this past season.
Still, it can get even better, and Rivers is just the man to change that. Plus, it's not like the Clips depend too much upon offensive rebounds anyway, as they ranked 15th in that category during the 2012-13 campaign.
3. Fantastic play-calling out of timeouts
This was mentioned earlier, and it is something that Doc will undoubtedly bring to the Clippers.
Rivers should be prosperous in doing so, too, as he has one of the league's most savvy players in Paul handling point guard duties.
Heck, sometimes, Doc won't even involve the point guard.
Just take a look at this game-winning play that he drew up back in March:
Genius, and the best part about that call was how Rivers had Garnett playing the role of facilitator. It was unexpected and clearly caught the Indiana Pacers off guard. Not only that, but it was deceivingly simple.
Doc can probably devise similar sets with L.A., seeing as how Griffin is a very solid playmaking forward.
This is a dimension that Vinny Del Negro never could have dreamed of bringing to the table while he was the coach of the Clips.
It's play-calling like this that Rivers puts into action to get the most out of his players, and Los Angeles' incredibly deep roster offers him countless possibilities, especially in late-game situations.