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Lob City was incendiary last season.
A 17-game winning streak led to an undefeated month. The team was fourth-best in offensive efficiency based largely on simple high pick-and-roll schemes. It won a franchise-record 56 games and its first Pacific Division banner.
And this is all without a regular starting lineup.
The Clippers went about addressing their needs from a system perspective, bringing in Doc Rivers, one of only four active coaches to lead a team to a championship. With him, he brings the vaunted Boston strong-side defense that Tom Thibodeau installed and an attention to execution on both ends.
Not only that, the Clippers upgraded both starting wing positions by trading for J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, career 39 percent and 40.5 percent three-point shooters, respectively.
Where is the frontcourt depth?
Byron Mullens, Antawn Jamison, Ryan Hollins. Does anyone feel comfortable with them spelling Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan?
The Clippers finished ninth in defensive efficiency last season but were sliding viciously after the All-Star break (17th from that point to the end of the season). And Memphis exposed their overall poor defense in the playoffs, pounding it inside against an undersized Griffin-Odom tandem and shooting from the outside against the Clippers' slow-footed wings.
The Verdict: Contender
Can Doc Rivers mold Jordan and Griffin into a superior defensive tandem? This becomes the ultimate nature versus nurture experiment in the NBA. Jordan and Griffin have shown little defensive acumen during their tenure in Los Angeles.
The offense will be fine. Any team with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin running pick-and-rolls will figure out some way to score points.
But if they cannot digest the defensive system and apply it consistently on the court, the Clips should be prepared for another early summer.