The Los Angeles Clippers’ addressed their roster rather early into free agency, adding J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley quickly after the NBA’s moratorium was lifted. However, some of the same roster flaws still exist.
Bearing a noticeable improvement in multiple areas by Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers are still lacking consistency on both ends of the floor in the paint. While the team’s long-range shooting has been addressed, rebounding still remains a concern.
Perhaps some of these problems can be fixed due to Doc Rivers’ presence and systems on both sides of the ball, but on paper, they still remain.
Perhaps the one major concern many prognosticates had about the Clippers last season was their inability to drop the ball off in the paint late in the shot clock and generate a good shot.
Certainly, Blake Griffin may have developed his post moves enough over the summer to become that type of player the team desperately needs, but management did not address this weakness in free agency.
The Clippers made a push for Carl Landry, who definitely would have helped scoring in the post, but ultimately were unable to come to terms with the power forward.
Do not let the Clippers’ number of points in the paint last season fool you. According to NBA.com, the Clippers finished 5th in total points in the paint. But watching the team play, it is clear that they desperately need someone to drop the ball off and create his own shot in the paint.
As mentioned above, Blake Griffin needs to become that guy, but he is far more effective attacking off the dribble than he is with his back to the basket. Unless Griffin’s post game has significantly improved, this will remain a weakness.
Much like the lack of low-post scoring, the team’s rebounding was another area of need that was not quite addressed. Last season the Clippers finished 17th in total rebounding (via NBA.com).
Byron Mullens and Jared Dudley were brought in to help the front court, while Matt Barnes and Ryan Hollins we re-signed. Still, the Clippers are going to be relying on improvements by Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on the glass in order to improve their 17th place finish.
One bright spot is that Griffin averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds his previous two seasons. Last year Griffin slipped to 18.0 points and only 8.3 rebounds. The hope amongst fans and management alike is for Griffin to return to his 10-plus rebound status.
Furthermore, even more pressure will be cast upon Jordan. The Clippers’ athletic center needs to prove to Doc Rivers he is capable of playing over 25-minutes each night. He played a mere 24.5 minutes per-game last season under Vinny Del Negro.
For the Clippers to be at their very best, Jordan needs to become the dominant rebounder that his athleticism and size say he should become. The more Jordan can stay on the floor, the better the Clippers will become in multiple areas, especially on the glass.
The most frustrating thing about watching the Los Angeles Clippers last season was how many open three the team gave up. While management tried to improve their perimeter defense by swapping Caron Butler for the solid Jared Dudley, but many of the same problems remain.
Last season, the Clippers yielded the 6th highest three-point percentage against in the league (via NBA.com). Allowing teams to connect on 36.5 percent of their threes will not fly this season.
While the lack of perimeter defense definitely deserves a large portion of the blame, the bigs also have some responsibility as well. This season, the Clippers’ bigs must work in unison with the wings to be able to stop penetration. This will allow the perimeter defenders to stay in position and rotate properly.
Additionally, Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes are going to be asked to play a vital role in the team’s perimeter defense this season. If they are unable to hold up to the pressure, look for the team to either give more minutes to Reggie Bullock or make a trade at the deadline.
The Clippers went to the foul line 23 times per contest, good for 9th in the league, according to NBA.com. Unfortunately, the team was unable to convert on those opportunities and made only 16.4 free-throws each night. That percentage ranked the Clippers 27th.
The two obvious players who need to improve their foul-shooting are Jordan and Griffin. Make no mistake, Griffin’s form and consistency has improved. He shot a career-high 66 percent from the line last season.
The same cannot be said about Jordan, who shot a pitiful 38 percent from the line. If Jordan wants to stay on the floor late in game, especially in crunch-time, he needs to prove that he can make free throws.
Overall, one theme remains constant from last year. Griffin and Jordan are extremely important to the long-term outlook this season. Improvements in the areas listed above from both players would go a long way towards covering up some of the team’s flaws.
Again, these problems are just assumed on paper, but we will not know the actual problems until the team takes the floor. Still, these are many of the areas the needed to be addressed last season and that remains true this season.
If the players currently on the roster are unable to mask some of these deficiencies the front office will have no choice but to make changes mid-way through the season.