Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will again be the leaders in Lob City.
After an active offseason, the Los Angeles Clippers will be ready to pursue their franchise’s first championship this season. With 14 players still on the roster, Doc Rivers and Co. will have to refine the rotations before opening night.
The Clippers' star power of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin is complemented nicely by the depth of their supporting cast. Organizing the team by each player's value is a challenge. Who is the Clippers’ most important player? How do the rankings fill out bottom to top?
We will evaluate and rank each player on the roster by his previous history in the league as well as his expected performance in 2013-14. We will start with the non-guaranteed contracts, move into the guaranteed contracts that did not crack the top 10 and then rank the top 10 Clippers in descending order.
All statistics used from ESPN.com, NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com.
Can Antawn Jamison recover from his lone season on the Los Angeles Lakers?
4) Maalik Wayns
2012-13 Stats: 2.8 PPG, 1.0 APG, 5.10 PER
Breakdown: With all of the injuries to starting shooting guard Chauncey Billups, Maalik Wayns got his chance with an NBA squad. The third point guard behind Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe, Wayns appeared mostly in garbage time in just six games with Lob City last season.
With Bledsoe in Phoenix, the Clips signed free agent Darren Collison, making him the designated backup behind Paul. At 6’2” Wayns offers a bigger body than Collison on defense, but it is yet to be seen whether Wayns will have an impact in the regular season.
3) Reggie Bullock
2012-13 Stats: N/A
Breakdown: The sharp shooter out of North Carolina, Reggie Bullock has missed out on some valuable learning time this preseason as he recovers from a knee injury.
Not known for playing his rookies heavy minutes, Rivers will play Bullock only sparingly this season, barring an injury at the small forward position. A low-risk player, Bullock is an accurate shooter who converted 38.7 percent of his three-pointers over three seasons in Chapel Hill. Bullock has two great mentors ahead of him on the depth chart in Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes who should provide the former Tar Heel with sound tutelage during his rookie campaign.
2) Antawn Jamison
2012-13 Stats: 9.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 15.39 PER
Breakdown: Antawn Jamison will be looking to recover from one of his worst statistical seasons as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012-13. Averaging a career 18.8 PPG and 7.6 RPG, Jamison often looked lost and out of place in the soap opera that was last year’s Lakers team.
Early in the season, Jamison will likely be the first big man off the bench to spell Blake Griffin. Already a deficient defender, there are questions as to how much Jamison can bring to a contender at the age of 37.
1) Byron Mullens
2012-13 Stats: 10.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 12.35 PER
Breakdown: The former Charlotte Bobcat, Byron Mullens will be relied on to be the stretch four in the Clippers’ new offense. A career 30.1 percent shooter from downtown, Mullens will have to tempter his shot selection and convert consistently if he hopes to earn regular minutes in Los Angeles.
Like Jamison, Mullens is also a suspect defender. If he is unable to make the right rotations, then he is likely to find himself on the bench.
Willie Green should not expect too many minutes this season.
2012-13 Stats: 6.3 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.8 APG, 11.85 PER
Breakdown: The designated starting placeholder for the often-injured Billups, Willie Green’s role has fluctuated from game to game for the Clippers. Green would start consistently while Billups rehabilitated, before finding himself on the bench for consecutive DNP-CD’s upon Mr. Big Shot’s return.
Throughout the season, Green was quiet and professional, converting a superb 42.8 percent of his long balls, the third best of his 10-year career. With Billups on the Detroit Pistons, and the acquisition of J.J. Redick, Green might again find himself in a placeholding position this season.
Ryan Hollins previously played for Doc Rivers.
2012-13 Stats: 3.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 11.37 PER
Breakdown: Returning to his native Los Angeles, Ryan Hollins was a consistent big body that Vinny Del Negro sent out along with the last season’s iteration of A Tribe Called Bench. Hollins has no specific offensive skills, but he sets hard screens and hustles on every play.
In contrast to the rest of Lob City’s big men last season, Hollins shot 75 percent from the free-throw line, albeit in a small sample size. Barring an injury, Hollins will be the designated backup to DeAndre Jordan this season. He should expect consistent minutes.
Jared Dudley looks like he could be a valuable addition in Lob City.
2012-13 Stats: 10.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 14.89 PER
Breakdown: The Clippers’ newest super glue guy, Jared Dudley will likely be the starting small forward this season. If DeAndre Jordan continues to develop his offensive game, then Dudley will likely be the fifth option on LAC's lethal offense.
Only 28 years old, the San Diego native could choose to take a more veteran role in Hollywood. If the Clippers can get similar on-court and intrinsic value to the likes of James Posey on the 2008 Boston Celtics or Shane Battier over the last two seasons with the Miami Heat, then the Clippers brass will be more than justified in its acquisition of Dudley.
The Boston College product has a high basketball IQ and is a career 40.5 percent shooter from distance. Even if Dudley loses minutes to Matt Barnes, he should still produce at a high level while playing alongside Griffin and Paul.
A Darren Collison-Chris Paul reunion should be fruitful for the UCLA product.
2012-13 Stats: 12.0 PPG, 5.1 APG, 2.7 RPG, 16.37 PER
Breakdown: After what looked to be a promising start to his career backing up Paul on the New Orleans Hornets, Darren Collison is now on his third team in the last three seasons. Much to Collison's chagrin, he never blossomed into the consistent top-tier playmaker that the Indiana Pacers had hoped for when they acquired him in 2010.
Fulfilling the role of Eric Bledsoe on the second unit, Collison has a tough task in front of him. While he might be a more traditional playmaker, he lacks the defensive skill and creative destruction that Mini LeBron exhibited last season. Nevertheless, Collison is a low-risk option and more than capable of serving as the pilot to this season’s bench mob.
Will Jamal Crawford win the Sixth Man of the Year Award this season?
2012-13 Stats: 16.5 PPG, 2.5 APG, 1.7 RPG, 16.89 PER
Breakdown: The perennial Sixth Man of the Year Award candidate, Jamal Crawford will be relied upon to be instant offense again in Lob City.
The first player off the bench, Crawford is capable of lighting up the scoreboard on any given night. However, Crawford should expect a shorter leash and a more structured role on offense this season.
Whereas Crawford did much of his damage on a series of dribbles and isolation plays for Coach Del Negro, Coach Rivers’ offense demands constant motion and limited isolations. As such, Crawford might find himself in more catch-and-shoot situations than he is accustomed to. Either way, Crawford is an incredible teammate that should make the right adjustments on this championship contender.
Matt Barnes should find himself alongside Blake Griffin in crunch time this season.
2012-13 Stats: 10.3 PPG, 1.5 APG, 4.6 RPG, 15.57 PER
Breakdown: Perhaps the most underrated re-signing of the offseason, Matt Barnes will be back to wreak havoc on the perimeter in Lob City this season. Coming off of his best statistical season, Barnes' role will be to shoot open threes, make hard cuts to the basket and defend the opposing team’s best perimeter threat.
From the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant, Barnes will see heavy minutes against the league’s best guards and forwards. Although he will be coming off the bench, Barnes is likely to play more minutes than starter Dudley, and earn the lion’s share of crunch time minutes at the small forward position.
Can J.J. Redick play a constant-motion offense akin to Ray Allen?
2012-13 Stats: 14.1 PPG, 3.8 APG, 2.2 RPG, 14.74 PER
Breakdown: Part of a major three-team deal that sent Bledsoe to the Suns, J.J. Redick will be the traditional starting shooting guard that Chris Paul has lacked since coming to Los Angeles.
Splitting time between the Orlando Magic and the Milwaukee Bucks last season, Redick still found a way to contribute at a high level, converting 36.6 percent of his three-point attempts. Playing under Rivers, the Clippers might hope for Redick to watch plenty of Ray Allen tape from his time in Boston and develop into a constant motion threat on the perimeter.
A decent ball-handler and an above-average defender, the Paul and Redick All-ACC backcourt should be capable of some big performances in 2013-14.
Will this be the year DeAndre Jordan maximizes on his incredible potential?
2012-13 Stats: 8.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.4 BLKPG, 17.21 PER
Breakdown: Expectations are through the roof for the high-flying DeAndre Jordan this season. After underwhelming seasons under Del Negro, Jordan will finally have his chance to perform consistently under coach Rivers.
For years, Jordan has failed to act on the incredible potential and athleticism that the Clippers saw when they drafted him out of Texas A&M in 2008. Playing in Rivers’ Thibodeausian defensive system, Jordan has looked comfortable and active.
In his first two preseason games against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Utah Jazz, Jordan finished with a combined 10 blocked shots. Expecting the big man to average five blocks per game is far too much, but thus far he has been producing.
In a league dominated by Big Threes, the onus is on Jordan to morph into the effective third banana that he is capable of becoming.
The Clips should expect another big year from Blake Griffin.
2012-13 Stats: 18.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 22.44 PER
Breakdown: Entering his fourth NBA season, Blake Griffin will be looking to make the leap from human highlight reel to all-around dominant forward.
Griffin has already taken incredible strides to refine his offensive game, even upping his mechanics on his jump shot and effectiveness from the charity stripe. A skilled passer already, Griffin will look to become more of a threat on defense and on the perimeter.
Often timid to shoot the open jump shot, BG will have to have confidence in his stroke in Alvin Gentry’s motion offense. Griffin has become a better individual defender, but his basketball IQ will be put to the test in Rivers’ complex defensive scheme.
Already one of the premiere players in the game, Griffin will make the Clippers exponentially better if he can assert himself as the most talented power forward in the league.
Chris Paul looks ready for another dominant season.
2012-13 Stats: 16.9 PPG, 9.7 APG, 3.7 RPG, 26.43 PER
Breakdown: The mayor of Lob City, Chris Paul will again make the high-powered Clippers go this season.
After signing a five-year extension this summer, Paul demonstrated his commitment to the Clippers and their plan to win the franchise’s first-ever championship. Playing for the best coach of his career should maximize Paul’s skill and value.
Moving forward, the Clippers can expect steady production from their floor general. Opponents know what they will get with Paul on a nightly basis; CP3’s adept court vision and offensive dominance will make him a nightmare for opposing guards.
Last season was the Chris Paul offense, and this season should be more structured with Rivers. Expect plenty of staggered high screen and rolls and improvisations from the Point God, as he prepares for what should be another MVP-contending campaign.