5 Changes Doc Rivers Will Make to LA to Transform Clippers into Contenders
Doc Rivers has been there and done that. He has won a championship and been to two finals. Basically, he knows how to get it done. The Los Angeles Clippers are very fortunate to have him aboard, and perhaps this year, they can finally get over the hump and reach that next level that has eluded them the past two seasons.
Of course, changes will be implemented. Rivers' system is not Vinny Del Negro's, and he will install whatever nuances he feels is necessary to make the Clippers a legitimate contender, something they have not been even with the addition of Chris Paul.
Such alterations will serve to improve each Los Angeles player, and that, in turn, will improve the entire team as a whole. There is plenty of talent here. The problem has just been a lack of execution and, quite simply, a lack of a distinct direction in the playoffs.
Doc is likely to change all of that.
The Clippers are a ballclub that frequently plays at a hectic pace. While such a pace may be effective enough to keep their opponents on their toes, it can also backfire in that it results in lapses on the defensive end.
Slowing the pace down will be the central point to nearly every change Rivers makes to L.A.'s system. It affects just about everything a team does, and Doc will be sure to let the Clips players know that.
Yes, there are benefits to an uptempo offense. You get shots early in the shot clock, you keep defenses on their heels and you can tire your opponent out. However, there are also drawbacks, such as rushing and getting out of control, taking poor shots and allowing easy buckets. The funny thing is, playing at such a pace could actually cause your offense to stagnate just as much as not even moving could.
When you have a point guard as tactical and efficient as Chris Paul, why force the issue? Just let CP3 settle in and make decisions.
The good news for Clippers fans is that Doc is used to having that type of point guard. He had it in Boston with Rajon Rondo, and now he has it in Los Angeles with Paul.
Rivers knows how to slow things down, and he has the floor general to make that happen.
More Consistent Half-Court Offense
The Clippers are known as "Lob City" for a reason. They are the team with the most highlight-reel plays, the most fantastic slams and jaw-dropping plays in transition.
And you know what? That's all well and good, as alley-oops are high-percentage shots that can energize your ballclub.
However, relying too much on lobs to win you games is not going to get you very far against the best of the best. See: the 2012 and 2013 postseason.
Don't take that the wrong way; there are still instances where you can draw up plays for alley-oops in the playoffs, particularly off of screens and backdoor cuts. Rivers was known for focusing a lot on cuts to the basket with the Celtics, as guards like Rondo and Avery Bradley would frequently work to get open underneath the rim and be the recipients of passes from Kevin Garnett for easy buckets.
The problem arises when you become too opportunistic and don't really know how to consistently generate points otherwise.
Fortunately for Doc, he has the personnel to transform Los Angeles into more of a half-court team.
The Clips sorely needed outside shooting, so they went out and snatched up J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley in a three-way deal that sent Eric Bledsoe packing this past summer. That move alone should help L.A. become better in the half-court set. With a point guard like Paul, those two sharpshooters could end up being more effective than ever.
Let's also remember that Blake Griffin is a very good playmaker in his own right. The 24-year-old averaged 3.6 assists per game in 2012-13, a very impressive number for a power forward. It may even seem likely that that number will improve in 2013-14 with the new additions. Griffin is an excellent passer, and now he has more weapons to dish the ball to.
Not only that, but the fact that the Clippers have more outside shooters can help Griffin become better on the low block. It's not exactly a secret that Blake lacks refinement in the low post, but with Redick and Dudley now aboard, Griffin will have much more room to operate in the paint as defenses will be forced to stay at home on the perimeter.
The formula is there for Rivers to turn this squad into a very efficient offense in the half-court set. Now we get to watch him go to work.
Improved Transition Defense
The Clippers transition defense is hardly bad, as they ranked 10th in opponent's fast-break points in 2012-13. Still, it could stand to improve, and with Rivers running the show, it will.
Well, the solution is simple: Under Doc, they won't crash the offensive glass as much.
That might sound counterproductive, but look at it this way: The less you battle for offensive rebounds, the less of a chance the opponent is going to be able to throw clean outlet passes in transition. We too often see guys hitting the offensive boards with complete disregard for getting back on defense.
The chances of snaring an offensive rebound aren't great anyway, so why risk two easy points on the other end for the sake of recklessly trying to gain an unlikely second possession?
Just take a look at what Rivers did in Boston. While the Celtics ranked last in offensive rebounds last season, they ranked fifth in fast-break points allowed. The C's always had an elite defense during Rivers' tenure there, and while having KG patrolling the middle was certainly a pretty big reason for that, the strategy that Doc employed played a role as well.
This isn't to say that Los Angeles should completely abandon manufacturing second opportunities. That would be silly. However, instead of having four or all five guys trying to do so, have one or two of them do that and let the others get back down the court to prevent leakouts.
It's not like L.A. is overly dependent on offensive boards anyway, as it ranked 15th in that category during the 2012-13 campaign. So sacrificing a few of those rebounds for stingier defense is not going to hurt.
Great Timeout Playcalling
Calling plays out of timeouts is a very underrated aspect of the game today. Sometimes, they serve as some of the most important moments of a contest, as they can act as momentum-changers or result in a game-winning field goal. A lot of times, we focus on the result instead of actually examining the genius behind it.
This has always been a strength of Rivers, as he has regularly been able to devise great sets out of timeouts that seem to have opposing defenses reeling. Of course, he had the perfect roster to make that possible in Boston, and fortunately, he has the players to continue his success in that area with the Clippers.
It also helps that Paul is Doc's point guard. CP3 is such an intelligent basketball player that he is essentially a second coach, and you can be sure that he will work in tandem with Rivers to create some of the slickest plays in the league. Doc did it with Rondo, so he can also do it successfully with Paul.
Now, when the Clips might need a big bucket late in the game, they can depend on Rivers to come up with a brilliant scheme to get them over the hump.
A Strict Rotation
One look at the Clippers depth chart, and you'll realize just how deep this team is.
Depending on how you view each individual player, Los Angeles has about 11 or 12 guys who probably deserve regular minutes. However, that is not how Rivers operates.
Doc is a guy who finds a rotation that he feels works best, and he sticks with it. It may ruffle some feathers, as players who feel like they should be getting more burn may not even be seeing daylight, but it's Rivers' way.
Fortunately, Doc knows how to deal with a stacked roster after all of those years in Boston. He has more than just a general idea of how to distribute minutes, and he is not one to vacillate from the norm except under extreme circumstances.
This could mean that Willie Green gets shafted. It could mean that Antawn Jamison or Byron Mullens will hardly get off the bench. It remains to be seen which route Rivers decides to go, but when he does ultimately select that route, there is no usually no turning back.
Doc's stubbornness in this area rubbed some Celtics fans the wrong way during his tenure there, but hey, it produced a championship, two finals appearances and three trips to the conference finals. Obviously, something he was doing was working, and who are we to question one of the best coaches in a league of professionals?