Each of the three is a solid individual defender and should thrive in new head coach Doc Rivers’ complex defensive schemes. Additionally, the depth of this year's small forwards far exceeds last season’s duo of Barnes and then-starter Caron Butler.
How can we expect this season’s three-headed monster to fare? Who will earn the lion’s share of the minutes, and who will play in crunch time?
We will take a look at all three small forwards, then evaluate their strengths and weaknesses based on past performances. We will establish realistic expectations based on analysis including projected minutes and statistics.
2012-13 stats: 10.9 PPG, 2.6 APG, 3.1 RPG, 27.5 MPG, 14.89 PER
Newly acquired Jared Dudley will likely be the starter come opening night. Dudley is a noted glue guy, having played well alongside Steve Nash on the Phoenix Suns. Dudley had one of his best seasons in 2011-12, when he averaged 12.7 PPG, grabbed 4.6 boards and nailed 38.3 percent of his long balls.
Last season, Dudley converted 43 percent of his attempts from the right corner and 36 percent from the left corner. Playing with better offensive options should yield an even better shooting performance this season.
At a lanky 6’7”, Dudley will be tasked with defending the likes of Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala. His versatility will also afford him looks at quick guards like James Harden or athletic power forwards like Serge Ibaka.
With so many offensive weapons in Lob City, Dudley will likely be the fifth option on the Clippers’ starting lineup. As such, we should expect to see Dudley do a little bit of everything: crashing the boards, defending the other team’s best wings and knocking down the open jump shot.
Dudley is a smart player that should fit in well as the newest edition of Lob City.
Projected 2013-14 stats and minutes: 12.0 PPG, 2.0 APG, 4.0 RPG, 24.0 MPG
2012-13 stats: 10.3 PPG, 1.5 APG, 4.6 RPG, 25.7 MPG, 15.57 PER
The unheralded re-signing of the summer, Matt Barnes should continue to play the role of defensive stopper for the Clippers this season.
Barnes will likely see expectations rise after his 2012-13 season. With Vinny Del Negro gone and the new incarnation of A Tribe Called Bench, Clipper Nation can expect to see Barnes play both heavy minutes with the starters and with the second unit.
The UCLA product’s versatility will make him a threat alongside Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford, or Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
One of Barnes’ greatest strengths is his off-ball movement and deft cuts to the hoop. Last season’s hard attacks translated into 42 percent of Barnes’ field goal attempts in the paint. Barnes has the strength and length to run in big lineups and small lineups as well.
He will likely come off the bench, but should be the one playing big minutes in the fourth quarter. Last season, Barnes averaged 10.2 minutes per fourth quarter, the second highest average on the team. His chemistry with Paul and Griffin should result in heavy crunch time minutes next season.
Projected 2013-14 stats and minutes: 10.5 PPG, 1.2 APG, 4.3 RPG, 24.5 MPG
2012-13 Stats: N/A
The rookie out of North Carolina should expect to play limited minutes behind a stacked rotation featuring Dudley and Barnes. A standout in college, Bullock has a lot to learn before he can expect to play heavy minutes in the pros.
Often likened to the San Antonio Spurs’ Danny Green, Bullock is a lanky forward known for his sound individual defense and his catch-and-shoot ability from behind the arc. During his junior year at Chapel Hill, Bullock drained 43 percent of his long balls, while averaging a career-high 13.9 points per game.
The value in Bullock is his low risk and modest upside. The former Tar Heel is a smart and coachable player, suggesting that he will grow under the tutelage of Rivers and lead assistant Alvin Gentry.
His skill set is not so different from Barnes or Dudley, also giving him two players to emulate in the locker room.
As Rivers is not known for playing his rookies heavy minutes, Bullock should expect to play few minutes on a game-to-game basis. Barring an injury to a rotation player, it would be surprising to see Bullock play regular minutes at all.
He will get his fair share of burn during blowouts or at the ends of quarters. Entering his rookie season, Lob City’s coaching staff is likely looking for incremental development and adaptability to the pace and grind of an 82-game season.
Expectations will be low, and any success that Bullock finds on the court will only bolster this already formidable squad.
Projected 2013-14 stats and minutes: 4.5 PPG, 0.8 APG, 1.4 RPG, 8.6 MPG